Preparing my taxes has been much less warm and fuzzy since my former accountant-slash-dear friend gave up her CPA certification in order to focus full time on her writing career. For tax year 2013, with a little help from Turbo Tax, I filed an hour before the deadline. But I knew 2014 would be a different beast.
I spent some time gathering accountant recommendations from other small business owners but decided yesterday afternoon that I preferred the anonymity of H&R Block. Plus, they could offer me an appointment for this morning, and I was highly motivated to get my taxes done.
In case you haven’t been to an H&R Block recently, the interior is not painted any remote shade of cheerful. Lifeless brown walls with putrid orange accents contrast against gray office dividers. Fluorescent lighting sets the atmosphere to grim. When my turn came, I took a seat, hugging my folder of 1099s, mortgage interest statements and deductions tightly to my chest.
“What have we here?” asked the woman auto-assigned to my case when I made the appointment online. I plopped down my heavy folder and proceeded to cry. These were not the kind of tears that roll prettily down my face and turn my eyes green. Ugly sobs shook my body and stole my breath.
The accountant took my hands in hers. “Breathe in the light,” she directed me. “Release the dark. Exhale out the bad. Inhale only good.”
I tried my best to comply. But all the breath work and yoga training of the last six months eluded me.
“Whatever it is,” she assured me. “It’s just money.”
Yeah, just that. I tried to regulate my breath, still coming in sharp, shallow waves. She held onto my hands until she was satisfied I had calmed down. A reminder, we hadn’t even began tabulating my tab to Uncle Sam.
“Honey, whatever it is, I can tell you I’ve seen worse than whatever you’ve got there in your little folder.”
Then she quietly and efficiently got to work. I may be a mess but I’m an organized mess so I had pretty much everything she needed to tick my tax bill down as low as she could get it. The business side of my income was low, truth be told, but I did a naughty thing and took some early retirement disbursements. The government doesn’t really like it when you do that, which I knew at the time, but in typical Chelsea fashion, I figured I’d deal with the consequences later.
And here it is, later. I owe the IRS $17k. That’s on top of the $5k left in installments from 2013 and doesn’t include my debt to the state. My total tax bill (federal + state, 2013 + 2014) hovers around the $30k mark. I’ve spent the day feeling a little like George Bailey when the bank examiner comes and thanks to Uncle Billy, he’s ten grand in the hole. Except in my rendition of the story, there’s no tax fairy to get me out of this self-imposed mess.
“It’s just money,” said my new best friend-slash-accountant, who coincidentally is my neighbor, which means I’m going to see her all the time. So much for the anonymity of H&R Block.
But it’s better to know my fate than not to know, and now I can make a plan. I don’t know what that plan will look like except that it involves being financially honest with myself.