Accounting, the IRS and New Year’s Eve


Numbers scare me. Math scares me. The IRS scares me. April 15 scares me. You get the picture…the tax man cometh every year and every year I remember exactly why I did not pursue a career in accounting.

When our kids were babies, we’d tuck them into bed on New Year’s Eve with the help of Reema, our then college-age friend/nanny/godmother. Not that we couldn’t have put them to bed without her help, but the fact is, we — Fred — couldn’t do the taxes without her.

Every New Year’s Eve for about five years, the night went like this: Drink some wine, take a deep breath, pull out all the paperwork from the year to which we were about to bid adieu, drink some more wine, and plunge into the intricacies of Form C or whatever it was at the time. This was almost 30 years ago. Don’t expect me to remember everything.

I should probably clarify this picture because if I don’t, my husband and Reema will rat me out. My part in this was to refill glasses until about 11 p.m. when — this is true — I would nod off, lulled to sleep by Reema’s voice as she read the numbers from our statements. At about 2 minutes before midnight, they’d wake me up to watch the ball drop and send me back to sleep.

In the morning, I would find my husband fast asleep, clutching a slip of paper on which he had printed — in bold red numbers — the amount he expected our return to be.

Somehow, along the way the picture changed. Reema finished college, then law school, and took off to fight for social justice. Our income increased, the girls grew up and reminded us of why we never saw any of that increase in pay. In between, we added various forms of self-employment that further complicated our April 15 date with the IRS.

Every year my husband and my mother had a competition to see who would be the first to submit his/her form. It became pretty tense when he’d find her sitting at her desk, papers spread around her as she stared at the computer program that would figure her return (or payment) for the year. I could just see him itching to get home to work on his own.

After struggling to understand this stuff for several years, we gave up the fight and thrust all of our paperwork at our favorite CPA. He seems to enjoy the challenge of those crazy forms that each year become more complicated and convince the layperson that he/she is a complete nincompoop.

So today was no different. It was our day for the “meet-and-greet” with the CPA. His first comment to us was a sarcastic, “You guys couldn’t make it any easier.” I’m still chewing over that one. Far be it from me to admit that I haven’t a clue about the difference between a 1099 and 1098 and 990 and a schedule C and quarterly estimates, etc., etc., etc.

But you know what? I don’t really care. He might know his numbers and understand the ins and outs of IRS101, but he probably doesn’t know the first thing about hemming a pair of pants, let alone making a pair. I do. I’d much rather sit at my sewing machine and match up seams that enter numbers into a spreadsheet.

And you know what else? New Year’s Eve is a whole lot more fun these days except that Reema’s never around to wake me up in time for Auld Lang Syne.

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