Monday, April 17, 2006

My Favorite Day of the Year by Stephanie Feagan, CPA

"The wages of sin is death, but after taxes, it's just sort of a tired feeling." - Paula Poundstone

Today is Tax Day in the United States. Millions of Americans filled out their tax forms (or extensions of time to file) and headed for the post office to make sure their envelope was postmarked and avoid getting in trouble with Uncle Sam's treasury department, aka the Internal Revenue Service.

For me, it meant handing off the last of the returns I prepared for clients, and a couple of trips to the post office to mail extensions for my procrastinators. Now, I'm at my computer, dying to dig into the book that's been lurking about on the edge of my conscience all these weeks - and I'm frozen. My mind is still buried deep in depreciation schedules and partnership K-1s.

Then I remembered that the 18th is my day to blog at 2BRead! I'm a bit early out of the gate, but I thought this was a perfect way to get back in the groove of writing something other than numbers. Y'all forgive me if I lapse into a diatribe about effective tax rates or IRA rollovers....

Actually, I thought it might be amusing to relate a few of my observations from my many hours of toil and trouble during this Tax Season. Calm down - I culled the icky stories and went for funny. I hope.

First off, we have the Very Frugal Client. Okay, she's tighter than the bark on a tree. Also unashamed. Her list of charitable contributions came to $2.00. That's a two, with a decimal after it. Two dollars. Dos bucks. Two donuts. Not kidding. She sends a check for 50 cents to a children's hospital, Hospice, and a couple of other charities, in memory of someone who's passed on. The charity mails the grieving family a note that a contribution has been made for their loved one by *fill in the blank* and they send her a thank you note for her generosity. I'm not making this up. After my initial shock, I died laughing. That, my friends, is someone who can squeeze a penny until it begs for mercy.

One client received dividends from France and the paperwork was all in French. He wrote across the top, "You can convert this to dollars, wee?" Dude definitely needs to stick to English.

Then there's the client who wanted to know if he can write off racing pigeons. Evidently, pigeon racing is about to be hot. Who knew?

In the alternate reality we CPAs call Hell in a Shoebox, I had one client who included in the huge wad o' paper inside the box - are you ready for this? - receipts for porn flick rentals. I wasn't sure if he intended for me to write them off, but no way was I gonna call and ask. Can you imagine that conversation? "Good afternoon, Mr. Hell in a Shoebox Client. I've gone through your receipts and wondered about a few of them. Was there a legitimate business reason for renting Big Breasts in Baltimore?" I'll also add that delivering this man's tax return and handing back his Shoebox from Hell was very awkward.

I know we CPAs suffer from the stereotype of boring nerds with pocket protectors, anal retentive types who get turned on when anybody brings up things like amortization, or alternative minimum tax, but I'm here to bust the myth wide open. We're actually a lot of fun, the life of the party, interesting, mysterious and charming. And that's just when we're at the IRS. You should see us at CPA conferences. Whoo damn, we can party like it's 1999. And on the last day of tax season, Katy bar the door, because we are hot, hot, hot!

Take me, for instance. I'm sitting here in my jammies, drinking a Diet Coke, bleary eyed and filled with anxiety about all the returns I had to extend, the book deadline, the book in my head, and whether or not I missed a hair appointment. Yeah, baby - I'm so hot, I need antifreeze.

But don't let the scenario fool you. Inside, there's a party girl waiting to get out, catch a pigeon race, and head for the all night video store. Wonder if Big Breasts in Baltimore is in?


Geri Buckley Borcz said...

Congrats, Stephanie, on surviving another tax season with your sanity somewhat intact. Loved the stories. Wonder what Mr. Porno Viewer would've said if you had told him BBB wasn't tax deductible, but if he had a receipt for Debbie Does Dallas to send it over...

Sally MacKenzie said...

Stephanie--you're making this up, right? There really are clients like these? What a hoot!

My oldest son was born on April 15. Another woman from our Lamaze class was in labor at the same hospital--and her husband was filling out a filing extension form as he was coaching her through labor pains. She didn't even strangle him.

I'm happy to say our taxes were already done.

Lynn M said...

My husband is a CPA, and while he isn't involved directly in the tax department, he still has a very hellish tax season. Of course, both of our kids were born during tax season, our son the day before Tax Day. And from January through April, I get so used to him being gone all the time that when he starts coming home at 7 pm I ask him what's wrong that he's home so early. He always files extensions to do our own taxes because he doesn't have the time until after April 15th.

And every year, he swears when it's all over that he's never going through another tax season again. Yet we've just finished our 14th tax season together.

Plus, like you said, he's not the nerdish type. You'd never guess he's a CPA cause he's just too zany.

JoAnn Ross said...

LOL about the stories. I was audited my first two years in the business, but fortunately kept very good records, escaped without problem and even had the second auditor ask if he bought a book for his sister, would I sign it. Since I'd actually brought a book to the audit (to show the Golden Gate bridge on the cover, thus justifying my research trip to S.F)., I just gave it to him. After making sure he wouldn't see it as any attempt to bribe him!

I won't do spreadsheets or Quicken, or any such thing, but keep all my receipts in accordian files by category, then I take days filling out the thirty + page workbook for my CPA. I used to spend two hours every March with him in his Scottsdale, AZ office, going over the workbook line by line, then treat myself to a ridiculously expensive lunch -- with wine AND dessert! -- at one of the valley's priciest resorts.

The past eight years, since I've been in TN and he's in AZ, I just FedEx the workbook and all necessary corroborating tax forms off to him. Then, a couple weeks later, he calls and tells me what I'm going to have to pay and how much my quarterlies will be. It's not quite the same. But then again, given that East TN has never met a veggie it didn't think was better deep fried, the tax day lunches aren't quite the same, either. :)

One thing that fascinated me was that every year I'd go to his office there would be this battered old suitcase in the corner on the floor, the leather-bound kind world travelers used to take on steamships. Apparently it would be filled with papers and receipts, none of them sorted, not all deductible. Just receipts for everything the old man had bought over the course of the year and any income. The accountant -- and previous ones -- took care of everything. Apparently this had been going on for about 50 years, and every February, when I'd be fussing over filling out that *#%$# worksheet and plastering my little post-it notes all over it to remind me of things I had to discuss during our meeting, I'd think of that suitcase and be so, so, tempted just to dump everything unsorted into my accountant's lap. . .

But, alas, I'm a control freak, who only, for the very first time in our marriage, allowed my sweetie to fill out the worksheet this year because I was in a double deadline crunch. (Watch this be the year we get audited again!)

Anyway, I asked about the man last month and was told he'd died. It was surprisingly sad; sort of the passing of an income tax era.

Gail Dayton said...

Envelope. Big brown manila envelope. Fooey on boxes. The envelope fits on my desk.

Fortunately my mother-in-law AND brother-in-law are both CPAs, so the fella got the CPA gene too, apparently. He sorts through my envelope and takes care of everything--and calls his brother, or Mom, if there's something he can't figure out. And they're both fun people too! Yeah, Steph, I know you're a party animal...