The photo up there isn't of my own desk, but it's more similar than I'm comfortable admitting.
But I finally managed to catch up on my tax returns, which is something of a relief. What wasn't a relief was finding that, rather than the refunds I've gotten used to over the years, I ended up owing an uncomfortable amount for 2008 and an eye-popping amount for 2009. Ouch. (And, contrary to what I thought after filing an amended return for 2007 earlier this year, the IRS told me I still owed money for that year as well. Double-ouch.)
Part of this was my own fault. After I got the security guard job in August '08, I kept neglecting to increase the withholding amount until earlier this year. Retirement income from the Postal Service also did a number on the numbers. Mea culpa, mea checkbook.
Besides upping the withholding on my guard pay, I'll be going to my credit union and setting things up to transfer a healthy percentage of my monthly retirement check into a savings account reserved for taxes.
We also owed big for 2009 because our income was up and our deductions were down. Having to see doctors less often: good news for your health, bad news for your tax refunds.
I'm peeved about part of that extra "income" because it was no such thing. A few years back I co-signed a car loan for a close friend. She moved across the country in May of 2008, and stopped making payments on the truck. The truck was repossessed in October 2008.
-I- never heard about any of this, even though we were still in touch, until June 2009, eight months later, when I was contacted by a collection agency and told I was responsible for the balance left on the truck loan, close to $12,000.
For various reasons, the friend's own income wasn't seizable, and she could just tell collectors to go fuck themselves when they tried to collect the loan balance. But when she told them to go fuck themselves, she was saying "Go fuck yourself" to me as well, because she knew I'd have to pay if she didn't.
In return for quick payment, the collection agency settled for $8,400. Had to take a home equity loan to pay it. Not happy, me.
Not end of story. Earlier this year, I got a 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, form from GMAC, the original loan company. The $3,500+ amount that had been waived when I paid the $8,400 was required to be reported as "income" on my tax return.
Oh, not happy, me. Especially when I plugged that information into Turbo Tax a few days ago and watched the "Amount Due" box climb by over six hundred dollars. For a truck I never owned, rarely drove, and should never have had to make any payment on at all. I think this qualifies as adding injury to injury.
(That friend -- let me rephrase that -- that former friend has still never said or written a single word directly to me or Hilde about any of this, even though she knows we know the truck was repossessed, even though she knows we had to pay the balance on her loan ourselves, even though she knows we had to go into debt to pay off her loan. Even just the words "I'm sorry" would have helped a lot with the anger I feel about this.)
Specific lesson: Don't co-sign a loan. For anyone. Ever.
General lesson: Don't trust your own trust in other people. (It's not the first time I've been burned by thinking other people would act the same way I would if the situation were reversed. I really should know better at my age.)
One of the reasons I got behind in getting the taxes filed is that I hate the process. Hate. Hate, hate, hate, hate. HATE. Have I mentioned I hate it?
Doing the actual tax returns is not the big problem. Turbo Tax actually does a pretty wonderful job of simplifying tax returns for most people, and even making them understandable for the most part. I want to have Intuit's children.
The hard part, the frustrating part, the part that has me clenching my teeth and bulging my eyes in bloodshot fury, is getting together the information to enter into those tax returns.
Especially because it's shouldn't BE a problem. Every year, throughout the year, I try to put info and papers I know will be needed for the next tax season into a separate folder or container. So it should just be a matter of cranking up Turbo Tax, opening that folder, and starting to enter that information.
And every year... EVERY YEAR... some of those papers and information, that I KNOW I received, that I KNOW I put into that folder... ISN'T THERE. Every damn year, I have to go on a scavenger hunt through every other piece of paper in the house, and usually find some of them in other places and files where they SHOULDN'T and WOULDN'T and COULDN'T be. And still others I have to contact the source for fresh copies, with associated delays.
(This is one area where Turbo Tax has failed miserably for me. Because TT is supposed to be able to download various information directly from one's various financial institutions. Except that every time I've tried using that "Import" button, it does not work. My batting average for downloading information via Turbo Tax is zero point nada nothing.)
But if I've moved into a part of my life where I seem more likely to owe taxes, rather than receive a refund, I really need to figure out some way to stay more organized. Not just with that "Taxes" folder, but with all the other papers & miscellanea that piles up so quickly; if I can change that annual "scavenger hunt" into just a regular "hunt", it would save a lot of time and frustration.