My husband thinks I'm working on my taxes, but I'm really writing this column. I hate doing my taxes, and I'm annoyed that I have to do them at all. It's not that I'm against giving the government my money - I just wish someone would figure it all out.
For me, marriage has been a step backward in the tax-preparation department. As a single, young adult, I simply handed everything over to my father. A math whiz, he'd present me with the final bill or refund amount. Later on, when I started my own business and things got more complicated, I hired an accountant.Paul was the buffer between me and the IRS, asking nothing of me other than to save my receipts. I'd drop a shopping bag full of them on his desk sometime around mid-March, and the next thing I knew I was signing my name at the X and licking the postage stamps.
"Just keep me out of jail," I told him at the beginning of our relationship, "and I'll buy you dinner." He always did, and I always did.
Still, sometimes Paul's wild ideas got me wondering how I'd look in stripes. He was often quite inventive. One year he came up with this truly unique money-saving scheme: I should rent 10 safe-deposit boxes at area banks at a cost of $10 each, then put a dead mouse in each one. The odor would be so offensive to the bank, they would offer to buy back my box at $20 just to get me out of there, and instantly I'd double my investment. (Or something like that, I'm not sure, since Paul called me in the middle of the night with this particular scheme. I hung up and went back to sleep but certainly never forgot it, as you can see.)
My business arrangement with Paul went on for 15 years. Tax time came and went with nary a worry except where to take him for dinner. Then I got married.
My husband refuses to hire an accountant, partly out of manly pride and partly because he doesn't want anyone to know "his business." So now I have to come up with my half of the data, since we file a joint return.
Mitch simply does not understand that I CAN`T DO MY TAXES. My brain has a limited capacity, and there are just no empty spaces left for all those complex forms. It's full of other stuff, some of which I probably don't need anymore, but aside form getting a lobotomy, there it stays.
For example, growing up on Long Island, I was a frequent rider of the commuter train from Manhattan. Consequently I learned, and cannot delete, the following litany, which was bellowed by the conductor on each of my countless rides: "Rockville Center, Baldwin, Freeport, Merrick, Bellemore, Wantaugh, Seaford, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, Amityville, Copague, Lindenhurst and Babylon. All others change to Jamaica." (This is a real ice-breaker at a party, should you ever run into anyone from Long Island. Just ask - we all know it and welcome an opportunity to use it.)
"No wonder I can't do my taxes. Look at all the valuable space occupied by the Long Island Railroad thing," I tell Mitch. He is not sympathetic, causing me to add, "I also know by heart (or actually by brain) the lyrics to every rock and roll song from Chuck Berry through James Taylor, the secret $250 recipe for Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies, and the names of the McCaughney septuplets. Isn't that enough? Can't I just hire an accountant and be done with it?
He thought not, so here I sit, wistfully remembering my days with Paul. I still wonder - where was I supposed to get dead mice, and is that legal?