Taxes. The very word can induce a maniacal clutching of the wallet and for most of us, a response ranging between annoyance and deep loathing. I know Jesus says to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” and He loves a “cheerful giver”, but I’m still stuck on the loathing end of the spectrum. I also know taxes are necessary for civilized society, but that doesn’t make prying a third of my income from my stingy mitts any more joyous.
With the exception of my sister celebrating her birthday and greedy politicians dreaming of pork, April 15 is resented by just about every American. I find great irony in the annual financial torture we all endure when our forefathers revolted at a mere 10 percent tax. Does anyone have the luxury of a 10 percent tax anymore? If you are a rich businessperson who can afford some hotshot accountant, you can probably get away with paying less, but for the rest of us, we bleed red like Wolverine fans on game day.
I’m still bitter about last year. My dad, who makes 10 times as much as me, paid one-tenth the percentage I paid. That just burns. Then again, the CPA I hired to do my taxes quit accounting a month later to be masseuse. And promptly quit massage school two months later to be a personal trainer. Can we say flaky? I just know I’m going to be audited.
If you have one W2, it’s not hard to file your own taxes and takes about 20 minutes. Start at the IRS’s 1040 Central. There are links for e-file, Form1040EZ, Form 1040, and instructions for filing both. Consider TurboTax if you plan on itemizing deductions or are required to file multiple schedules (the 1040 instructions explain when this is necessary).
If taxes terrify you and you decide to pay someone, various tax franchises are relatively inexpensive and start around $75 per tax return. However, companies like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt are in the business of churning out 1040’s and have no incentive to take the extra work required to get your maximum refund. So if you only have one or two W-2’s, take the $75-120 you would pay to a franchise, spend it on shoes and do your taxes yourself—you may end up happier.
I have yet to file my own taxes as they are rather complex, but I have filed plenty of other people’s and provided you read carefully, it’s not difficult. For my own taxes, I pay a professional; I figure I would rather pay a bit more today than risk being audited later.
The best way of making certain you pay the least taxes possible is to take them to certified public accountant (CPA), a designation used only by accountants who have passed a very difficult exam and are held to high standards of ethics. Just be careful, if your accountant has an affinity for granola, wears Birkenstocks, and mentions her dreams of massage school, you may want to find another.