Tuesday, March 08, 2011

8 MAR 11: Paying Up and Up

As of Monday night, it was all over for another year. Well, maybe. I thought it was over last year, yet follow-up letters kept coming. And before you get wrong ideas.... I am NOT talking about donations to the local Tea Party chapter.

What happened Monday night was the writing of a check and the stuffing of an envelope, to finish my income tax work for 2010. Yes, I still put my return in an envelope and mail it. The U.S. Postal Service needs every 44-cent donation it can get these days....

I heard somewhere recently only ten percent of U.S. taxpayers still fill out income tax forms themselves - with pen touching paper. That means no filing online, and no trip to a tax preparation service. If more people did it that way, the federal and state budgets might be a lot closer to being balanced.

Count me among that old-fashioned "do it yourself" ten percent. I save the cost of a tax preparer (although some services offer that work for free). I don't risk online hackers stealing vital personal information. And I follow the example of my late mother, who did the books for the family business -- so she knew when an ex-husband missed an alimony payment.

While some may consider income tax time a bother and a chore, I consider it a large-scale math problem. It's my annual test of whether I can still do addition, subtraction and multiplication without a calculator - not to mention whether I can find all the papers from 2010 to prove I didn't make up anything.

The Georgia tax form is the last one to go again this year -- because again this year, I owe the state. My income wasn't that great, but you only need $100 in income to owe Georgia tax. Then the state has the gumption to ask on the return for donations to eight separate state funds....

I could have waited until mid-April to write the check and settle my income taxes. But I'm paying now because I have the money now. A lot can happen in the next six weeks which could ruin my bank account. Hopefully people on both sides in Libya paid attention to that last sentence.

So why do I say "maybe" when I talk about filing income taxes? Because last year, the Internal Revenue Service sent me a notice after I mailed my federal return claiming I misfigured my adjusted gross income. A $999 error is gross, indeed....

It turned out the I.R.S. had made the mistake - because the tax reviewer thought I had a capital gain, when I really had a loss and marked it in parenthesis. A chat with the I.R.S. by phone straightened out the matter. But it also brought a strong suggestion that I change to "e-filing." That's "e" as in error-free?!

The federal tax return this year reminded me why I always fill out one form in pencil, then set it aside for a few days before doing the "official" Form 1040 in pen. A line was added noting "earned income credit" payments had been deducted in advance. Sorting that out reduced my federal tax refund by 90 percent -- and made me thankful I've missed those furniture liquidation sales.

The way Georgia lawmakers are acting, everyone soon may have to pay higher taxes in one way or another. Monday's news mentioned a proposal to increase the state cigarette tax from 37 cents per pack to 68 cents. Maybe this explains the action by that "gumball bandit" last year - he was looking for an alternative to smoking.

Maybe there's also a new tax on making news, because Monday didn't offer much to discuss....

+ The annual "Collegiate Challenge" began in Columbus, with college students from across the country building Habitat for Humanity homes. It's nice to see a few students resisted this year's trend to keep driving all the way to Florida.

+ Chambers County Sheriff's officers told the Ledger-Enquirer two women were arrested for "permitting livestock to run at large." Aw, c'mon - in parts of Spain, that would be an international tourist attraction.

+ The Georgia Supreme Court ruled 6-1 the current "Voter ID" law is constitutional. That means you need to show a photo identification when you vote - even if the poll workers laugh under their breath at the picture on your driver's license.

+ Kennesaw State University fired men's basketball coach Tony Ingle and all his assistants. The team that surprised Georgia Tech in December won only eight games all season, lost a scholarship due to players not making good grades - and may have wished it was playing Columbus State again in Division II.

+ Instant Message to Warner Brothers Television: Is it too early for me to file an application to replace Charlie Sheen? I'd enjoy being around those attractive women. And my attitude is a lot closer to a paper airplane than an F-18.

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