The tax man cometh, and taketh, and taketh and taketh

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

This time of year is my least favorite, as I am sure it is for millions of other Americans.

It’s time for us to gather all of our tax records and either fill out the appropriate forms ourselves or pay somebody to decipher all the mumbo jumbo in the tax laws – and then file for us.

When I was much younger and didn’t make any money at all — relatively speaking — I used to fill out a 1040-EZ form and send it in. And I always received money back. Those were the good old days.


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But now things have changed and I can’t do it “EZ”ily any longer.

But what really gets me is that in recent years my wife and I had owed the government – something that had never occurred before. And I don’t like that.

I also don’t understand it.

It seems to me that we do all the right things. We have our 401K accounts, Roth IRAs and other programs for our retirement, we don’t own any property other than our primary residence and we don’t own our own business.

But every time we have our taxes done, whether by an accountant or a tax-preparation company, Uncle Sam ends up winning.

And it’s not like we go in there unprepared. My wife has a notebook full of the appropriate documents, and even separates them by month.

We have receipts for everything we know that is tax deductible and we have all the necessary W-2 forms.

We learn something every year from our tax experience.

And in the past couple of years the one thing that has come back to bite us is our investments. And if they aren’t hard enough to understand, when it comes to this time of year the water becomes even murkier.

It seems that when one owns stocks and bonds, any money made off of those and any sale of those is related to the original price.

Let me see if I can clear it up.

Say you buy a stock for $1 a decade ago. Say also that last year your broker suggested, and you agreed, that selling it was the best thing to do.

He or she sells it and buys another stock.

What Uncle Sam wants to know is how much you paid for that stock on the first day 10 years ago.

I can’t even remember what I had for dinner last night and you want me to recall what I ponied up for the stock?

Besides that, who, other than the broker, really knows these things? We give them our money and trust that they’ll do the right thing by us.

And the periodic documents we receive from our broker do not have that important information on them. This only delays the process a few more days. Fortunately we didn’t wait until April 14 to get our taxes done.

Why does it have to be so complicated? What’s wrong with a flat tax anyway?

Would it be easier if everybody just took their total income for the year and sent 10 percent of that to Washington, D.C.? At least on the surface it seems fair and equitable to me.

But I know that won’t happen. I know that next year we will go see another tax professional and have to jump through a bunch of hoops again. And I know I will become frustrated and bring my idea for a flat tax back to the table.

And then Martha will write a check and we’ll send it to Washington, D.C.

I don’t want to go back to the good old days, but it sure would be nice if I could get a tax refund once and again. I remember I always felt much better about the tax system when I thought I had put it to the government – not the other way around.

Happy tax season to you all.

By the way, you get two more days to file this year since April 15 is a Saturday. That means you get two more days before Uncle Sam gets your money. I guess in a small way that’s a victory.

Take that Washington!

Grant is the managing editor of the News-Herald, contact him at