April 13, 2012

I have searched the corners of my cobweb infested brain for an appropriate idea for this tax season. (FYI - you have until April 17th this year to file your taxes because the 15th is on Sunday and the 16th is a holiday in Washington, DC - like they need another reason to take the day off.) Anyway, the only thing I could come up with is tax time when I ran a print/graphics shop in Wilson, North Carolina.

The year was 1992 ... maybe '93 ... or perhaps '91.

The birds are singing, the sky is blue and the lilacs are blooming, but I am fixated on a tax form bearing a yellow Post-it that says “SOS.”

The SOS is from myself to myself.

This particular SOS concerns a lengthy local tax form that must be filed by May 15th because I am a sole proprietor. It is not easy being a sole proprietor. Truthfully, there are days when it feels like a punishment.

The SOS forms are my business tangible personal property tax returns. As far as I know, there is an instruction booklet on how to fill out the forms and no one sends you the forms, but if you forget to file them, they have their own system of yellow Post-its and will let you know they are waiting to hear from you.

For a number of years I filled the forms out myself, but unsure whether “tools, dies, jigs and fixtures” was something I owned or a new dance step, I began having our accountant fill them out.

The previous year, the accountant charged a hefty fee. I suspect it is because of the photos in his office of a boat on the Albemarle Sound (that's a popular waterway on the coast). I understand the need for a boat, and he deserved the fee, but the fee was three times the pittance I owed in taxes.

The sole proprietor in me, the one who has never been the recipient of any sort of bailout, finds it senseless to pay a fee to fill out forms that will result in a paying a tax that is a fraction of the fee it cost to fill out the forms.

The form wants to know the value of the property I use to conduct business, or write columns. They’d like to know what my computer, chair and desk are worth and tax me on them. The computer isn’t new, the chair I sit on is old and the desk I work at loses value each time I kick it in frustration over the forms.

I thought about filling out the forms exactly like the accountant did last year, but some equipment I used was retired out of service, so that changes a lot of little boxes on page 2, the six columns on page 3, thereby altering the total cost, adjusted cost and ultimately the true tax value in Column D.

I thought about writing a check five dollars larger than the amount I wrote last year, but you don’t know what you owe until you send in the form and they mail you a bill.

I also considered joining the growing group of people that pay no taxes at all.

I had a great aunt who penned a note to the IRS after her 70th birthday that said, “I have turned 70 and will no longer be paying taxes.” And that was the end of that. She never paid taxes again and they never came looking for her. She was ahead of her time.

I have settled on the idea of visiting my local assessor’s office to see if they will help me fill out the form. I plan on wearing the SOS Post-it on my coat.

Now in 2012 I have found out one thing to be as true now as it was then. April would be a fine month if only it weren’t so taxing.