Once again, it is upon us. It's been upon us since October...you just weren't aware. Tax professionals...those who do other people's taxes.... have gone to Continuing Education and learned the changes to the tax code. The tax code that changes right up until Dec. 31. The big changes.... the ones that make headlines and are decried our touted by politicians... those are put into law with much fanfare. The picayune things... those keep coming at us.
But here's the bottom line this year.... just like every year.....
For most of us, we get a bargain when it comes to what we get for our tax dollar. I know what you pay to both the federal and state government. We have a variety of folks come through our offices. Those who qualify for Earned Income Credit (look it up) and those who DO have a big tax bill because they are self employed (and have employment taxes due at the same time). But those of us 'in the middle'? For all we get from both our federal and state government... we get a pretty good deal.
We get police and fire protection. We get a Trauma Center when we get hit by a truck. Our children are educated. Our neighbors' children are educated. We have paved roads just about anyplace we want to drive. (unless we WANT to go offroad) We have libraries. We have a war against terrorism. We have interest-free loans when a natural disaster hits. We have people who stay up all night walking our levee's to spot the first sign of weakness.... in pounding rain and wind. We have dams holding back reservoirs that will deliver water to us all through the summer. We have men and women patrolling our waters in aircraft carriers. We have men and women patrolling our borders. We maintain our national parks. If we can't afford it, our children will be vaccinated against deadly diseases. Regardless of our ability to pay, our disabled children will be educated and given every benefit possible. When we take a shower or flush the toilet, we have the luxury of never thinking about it again. When we turn on the tap, clean potable water comes out and we have the luxury of complaining when it tastes just a bit 'off'. Our street lights stay lit all night long eliminating the shadows that those who would do us harm seek. Those that do us harm are locked away in prisons, unable to prey upon us.
The forms are a pain to fill out.
No. I take that back. The forms are really quite easy to fill out. Getting a straight answer from some of my clients is a pain.
I don't know how much you gave to charity last year. I would guess it hovers around zero since you're asking. Those that don't ask "what's the usual amount" have their receipts. If you donated zero, you donated zero. No...you can't just 'take' $500. If you want to take $500 in charity donations, donate $500. If those that make half of what you do can donate twice that... it shouldn't be a problem.
I don't know how many miles you drove on your car last year either.
If you own a business, keep records. You can pull the answer out of your ass or look for it on our ceiling... but when you get audited, you better have it written down somewhere.
Pay what you owe. It's a bargain and in the long run, cheaper than when it's all disallowed after that audit.
So start gathering your records. Go through your check register for your charity donations. Write them all down. Bring that piece of paper to your tax appointment.
And you'll get right in if you do so during the first two weeks of March.