One my favorite all-time Seinfeld moments is when Kramer tries to convince Jerry to blame his broken stereo on the Post Office, which leads to this exchange:
Kramer: It’s just a write-off for them.
Jerry: How is it a write-off?
Kramer: They just write it off.
Jerry: Write it off what?
Kramer: Jerry, all these big companies, they write off everything.
Jerry: You don’t even know what a write-off is.
Kramer: Do you?
Jerry: No, I don’t.
Kramer: But they do. And they’re the ones writing it off.
“Write it off what?” is something my wife and I say to each other every time we hear the phrase “write it off.” We say it a lot to each other during this glorious time of year, tax season.
I have no idea what I am doing tax-wise. I realize many people say that, but I truly have no clue. I have no general concept of what “doing taxes” even means, and why a system is in place that requires the taxpayer to personally go back and account for errors pertaining to what he or she is paying the government. Thanks a lot, Obama!
So many questions. First, what is a W2? Is it different from a 1098? I got peanut butter on my W2. Is my dog a dependent? Do I need to report the $1.93 of interest I made on my checking account? I donated my old hip-hop CDs to St. Vincent de Paul, approximate value: $1,000. I forgot to get a receipt. Now what?
Those valid questions aside, I am personally not very complicated from a tax perspective Writing pointless weekly columns about subjects like cleaning my colon and not being able to comprehend simple tax law is not as lucrative as one might imagine. My wife, on the other hand, has a job that requires her to file for many tax write-offs, which is difficult because: write it off what?
We have a basic understanding of what she can include tax-wise, but every year something happens to complicate matters, mostly when my wife comes home and says, “Okay so I just talked to (co-worker X), and she said that SHE writes off the apps she buys for her iPad because she uses them for work. Am I doing that? Can I do that? Find out like, now please.”
This means I have to call or send an email to our CPA. “Hi, quick question—can my wife write off 99-cent apps she buys for her iPad if she uses them for work?” What I really require is a simple yes or no answer, but I’ll get a response like, “Well it depends, according to Section V, Article 8.7 of the Tax Constitution …” but I have already stopped listening/reading by that point. Then when my wife asks for the answer I will either a) shrug my shoulders or b) say, “Yes!” and then take no subsequent action.
This is just one example, but it leads to the annual feeling that we’re not getting back as much as we possibly can. That is probably not the case—I’m pretty sure I get all the big stuff in there—but whenever our tax return is not $10 million, my wife will dejectedly say, “That’s it? Did you submit for the apps?”
I am currently in the middle of this annual song and dance. It took me a while, but I got every piece of paperwork filled out, and calculated all the necessary totals, and had it all in one big, organized folder for our CPA. It was at this point my wife handed me a pile of receipts and said, “Did I give these to you yet, for taxes?”
I threw them away. Please don’t tell her.
Note: This column appears in the 2/21 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/22 issue of the Peoria Times.