Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The cake is a lie

The IRS reminds you that failure to file
your taxes correctly will result in an audit.
As part of the required test protocol, the IRS
will no longer tell anyone how to correctly
file their taxes. Please file your taxes as normal,
and then there will be cake.

Tax time. I've had the worst luck with taxes so I always dread this time of year. And by luck I mean a combination of poor planning on my part, poor explanation of how taxes work to me by HR departments and a general fear of all things involving giving up my income for things other than shoes, clothes or video games.

Right after college I was facing huge student loans and no one else to help support me, so I took two jobs. I worked full-time during the day and had a part-time night job. Though I informed both jobs that I had two jobs, apparently I filled out my withholding incorrectly and I ended up owing $700. As a 22-year-old, $700 was a lot. Hell, it still is.

The next year my night job became my full-time job and still I managed to fill out my withholding incorrectly. I owed $350. Finally, in 2006 I got it right. I managed to get a refund for $1000, which helped fund my trip to Hawaii last year. This year I think I'm screwed again. Both of my previous jobs made me cash out my 401Ks (I couldn't roll over because I wasn't yet eligible for the IRA at my current job). Since the money helped me move to NYC I'm not completely bitter, but I know it will drastically reduce my refund. I always tell the person who does my taxes -- I don't care if I don't get a refund, just please don't let me owe.

I shared my stress with a coworker the other day and it opened up a can of worms at my office. Turns out my coworker wasn't withholding his taxes correctly either and owes $4000. Yikes. This is his first job in America and no one brought him up to speed on his taxes. Another coworker recalled the year she moved to NYC from California and got slammed in both states.

There's so many NYC-centric rules that no ones tell you. For instance, if you live in NYC your income has both state tax and city tax removed, which is SO lame to me. No wonder NYC wants to secede. There's also a high proportion of workers who live not just in another city, but another state. Take me last year. I worked in Manhattan but lived in Connecticut. That was fun on my taxes. I had to file in both New York and Connecticut.

But the worst part about tax time is there isn't a good resource for youngins like me. I can't afford a personal accountant and my former corporate HR was the opposite of helpful. In fact, I tried asking HR at my old job about how much I should have taken out, and the rep's response was "I can't tell you." You can't tell me? Isn't that, oh I don't know, your job? When I asked why she couldn't tell me she said the company could get sued if she gave me bad advice. So we had to play this dumb game where I 'told' her what I was going to do by guessing and she would say nothing if that was the right thing to do. My boutique now is nothing like that thank goodness but my Office Manager admits she's no tax expert. So now I'm on my own to figure everything out.

If you're a renter in NYC, the tax resources are a joke. The only city resources I could find deal with property, business and parking tax. How do I even figure out how much money is supposed to come out of my paycheck? I've tried just having as much taken out as possible in the past and still I've been screwed come the ides of April.

Oh weighted companion cube, if only they didn't make me incinerate you. Then I could have gotten a $1200 stimulus check instead of $600...

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