When my daughter Laura was a toddler, she would say, “When I grow up, I’m going to smoke cigarettes and do income taxes like grandma!”
Laura would sit on the couch next to Mom, with one of Mom’s calculators in hand, and wearing play reading glasses, she would scribble on an income tax form while Mom worked on actual income tax returns.
Laura doesn’t smoke, thankfully, and she hasn’t learned how to do income taxes yet. I never expected to do income taxes for other people either, let alone for myself. Mom was always the tax lady and I often thought it was no small coincidence that her birthday is on April 15, on that dreaded tax day deadline, which is only 11 days away.
I repeat, 11 days until tax deadline!
Mom has spent many of her birthdays burning the midnight oil, doing income taxes for others. She was the tax lady in the family.
Strangely, however, the roles have suddenly shifted. Maybe it’s not so strange, thanks to technology, but I found myself saying just this week, “What’s wrong with this picture?” There I was, doing my sister Crisanta’s income tax return for her online, my fourth one this season, myself included. I also did Mom’s income taxes this year.
My income tax clientele has quadrupled this year. That’s because I’ve never done my own income tax return before. Last year a friend walked me through it online, but I didn’t think I could do it by myself. Thanks to simple programs that walk you through the process and even tell you which line to get which information from on your W-2 and other forms, even dummies like me can do income taxes.
I’ve always been afraid of numbers. Math is one of my worse subjects; math and science. And so I tend to walk away, no run, make that run and scream, from anything that involves more than simple addition, subtraction and division.
But then I started thinking to myself, in bed at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, wondering what I was going to write my column about this week.
You know ... sometimes we get so focused on the special talents that God has given each one of us that we tend to limit ourselves to those one, two or three things that we know we do well. In the process, we sometimes undermine our own potential in other areas.
Now I’m not saying I’m ready to become a CPA, but it won’t hurt to exercise my brain a little. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Not that I’m old or anything.
This year, I did my own income tax online, along with Crisanta’s, my sister Julie’s and Mom and Dad’s.
Of course, I made a few mistakes along the way, but fortunately, the 1040Now program I used told me when there were errors.
For example, in one case I had accidentally typed in a comma instead of a period, which can make a huge difference. It told me one of my sisters was getting back $45,000 from the state, which I knew was wrong and which made us both scared.
I also typed in a wrong figure the first time I did Mom and Dad’s, again, a punctuation thing, and so it calculated that Mom and Dad owed close to $90,000 in taxes. What’s a few zeros gonna hurt?
This goes to show that simple punctuation errors, like commas and periods, can make a huge difference in people’s pocketbooks.
I’m not ready to make that move to the world of professional tax preparation. It’s bad enough when our whole newspaper readership notices my punctuation errors in the newspaper.
But man, if my misplaced commas and periods could cost people hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, that would be scary, and that’s why I have respect for professional tax preparers.
That, and also because of the fact they can charge their clients for their services, including Mom and Dad. Just kidding!
Mom did my income taxes for free until a couple of years ago. By the way, she stopped smoking 10 years ago. Anyhow, her free income tax preparation coupon with me is good for another 20 years. Maybe even longer, because, well, because she’s Mom.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. She can be reached at: