This year, I sailed breezily through tax preparation time. No fretting, no anguish. This is because I was entirely too busy making cute cuff bracelets to focus on doing any prep work in anticipation of visiting the tax preparer. When, on Tuesday, I finally removed the glue that had been keeping my eyes sealed shut for several months, I was able to look at my Daytimer. I noted that my appointment with the tax preparer was scheduled for the following morning. I immediately became hysterical. After that, I went to the filing cabinet and pulled out all of my tax stuff. The first thing I saw was that I had neglected to make my second and third quarterly payments. I became even more hysterical. I tried to remember what I had been doing for the last six months that was more important than making quarterly payments. The answer was that I was spending the money that should have gone toward the quarterly payments.
I’m a Realtor. This means that for tax purposes, I’m what’s referred to as an Independent Contractor. An Independent Contractor is neither self-employed nor employed by a company. This puts me in the same category as military mercenaries and court jesters. And it means, unlike a real employed person, I can’t get group health insurance. It also means that, unlike a real self-employed person, I can’t deduct expenses for my home office, which is my place of business. And, because I’m the only one here, if I declare an annual Secret Santa Christmas gift exchange, I will most likely know who my Secret Santa is. I am stuck right in the middle of being employed and being self-employed.
It does mean that I must make quarterly payments, based on a wildly fluctuating income ranging from something to nothing. The percentage of the payments is based on income from the year before which may have nothing to do with my current year’s income. If I calculate incorrectly, I’m screwed. If I make no quarterly payments, I’m especially screwed. This is the year of Being Especially Screwed.
I called my tax accountant. Her name is Janet. Each year, Janet is accustomed to getting hysterical calls from me. They include:
“Janet! I can’t find my 1099! I swear it was right here! I didn’t move it! I was just eating my lunch, and now it’s gone! Oh, wait. I see it. Under the piece of cheese. Never mind.”
“Janet! I can’t do this! Every time I get everything together, some stupid new piece of paper comes in the mail! This is ridiculous! How can I keep my appointment with you if people keep sending me stuff with big words on the envelopes that say “IMPORTANT TAX DOCUMENT INSIDE?! How many IMPORTANT TAX DOCUMENTS can one very short, post-menopausal woman handle?!”
“Godammit! I lost the f-ing phone number for that idiot woman I was supposed to call today about that stupid workshop thing! Hello? Hello? Who am I talking to? Janet? Huh? Wha–? Oh, sorry, I thought I was calling my friend Joyce. Never mind.”
This year it was: “Janet! I forgot to pay my quarterlies! Can I send a check to the IRS now? Like today? I can be at the post office in 10 minutes! If I drive really fast, I can make it in five minutes! And what’s going to happen to me!? How much of a penalty will this cost me!? I have no money!” Janet’s answer was “Just calm down. Don’t send a check. It’s too late, anyway. We’ll deal with it when you get here. Everything will be fine.” Janet is good. She talked me down.
I should explain here, that I don’t normally go off the deep end about things (Note to my daughter: If you are reading this, DO NOT submit a snide comment). It’s just that I have a long and tragic history with the IRS. It’s even worse than my long and tragic history with Chemistry 101 and Technical Support Teams. Plus, the IRS has been given the Right by God to keep my money unlawfully and then, when they finally see the error of their ways, to return it without so much as a limp “Oh, sorry.” So I’m not real optimistic about this.
I kept my appointment with Janet. She now has every shred of my 2010 financial life and like each year, will somehow manage to make sense out of it all, even though I can’t. Then, she will tell me if the IRS will levy a fine on me that I can’t pay and then come up with some other awful and totally legal ways to ruin my life. At least they can’t send me to prison. I think. At 5’1”, horizontal stripes wouldn’t be the best fashion choice for me.
Those of you praying types out there, pray for me. The rest, just send cash.