Today, April 15, used to be the most exciting day of the year--the day I drove past the Minneapolis Post Office at a little before midnight to drop our tax return into a bag held by one of many postal employees out front. The postal employees wore vests with reflective tape, warm hats (it was only April, after all), and carried flashlights to help our aim in the dark. Tout le monde, it seemed, was out there dropping off tax returns. Police officers directed traffic so the lines moved along without tieups. It was an event! The only other event that came close was Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. That, too, took place around midnight, and it also gave us the same feeling of sauves par le gong.
And then we discovered accountants. Even though we had to pay $100 for an accountant back then (out of a total income of less than 5 figures), we always got that $100 investment back and more when tax refund time rolled around. No matter how scrupulous I was at counting every possible deduction, the accountants always knew more and better.
Years passed, and I moved to one of the five boroughs of NYC. I was divorced by then and my income had climbed to the low five figures, though I also had quit recently to go to grad school. (That was retirement #2--you could cut a pretty good deal if your employer a) had a good investment plan for its employees, or b) wanted to cut down the number of employees, or c) both.) But back to the borough...walking down the main street to the wonderful, enchanting bookstore (and no, I'll never buy a kindle...you'll have to pry my book out of my cold, dead hands), I'd pass an accountant's storefront shop.
One day in the end of January after my W2 form had arrived for the previous year, I walked past the accountant's and thought, "What the heck?" I walked in, talked with the accountant, who was sitting right there at a desk, and went home to get my W2. The accountant had all the other forms right there. I returned, handed over the goods, and got a quote for the accountant's work in preparing and filing my taxes: $75! And I would get several thousand back!! What was not to like?
I'm still using that blessed accountant. He files my taxes electronically now, and any returns--state and federal--appear in my checking account in less than two weeks!! This is all accomplished usually by what we used to call in the convent "Progress Day": March 4th (say it out loud). His son has joined the business now and manages investments. If I had a dime to invest, I'd give it to him.
Recently when the owner of a new storefront tax business approached me on my new main street with a coupon for discounted tax prep, I just smiled and said "I'm all finished!" In fact, I've been finished for so long it always amazes me that people still have not filed their tax returns for last year by midnight, April 15.