By Lois Hoffman
It’s getting close to that time of year again…shoebox season. Some more politically correct people refer to this time of year as “tax time,” for others it is crunch time but, I would be willing to bet, that for most it is shoebox time.
I say this because for me, and many others, we start every year out with good intentions of doing a better job of keeping receipts and other tax information in some kind of order. However, that notion usually goes by the wayside and the year’s paperwork invariably ends up in a shoebox.
I have such vivid memories of this happening every year with my parents when I was a kid. When we saw “The Shoebox” come out, we knew we were in for a rough couple of days. First of all, the shoebox came out of the closet and sat in plain sight for a few days. Every time Mom and Dad walked by it they would glance at it and give it a quick sneer. No one dared mention anything about it, the shoebox was taboo.
Then the dreadful day came when the table was cleared and the shoebox took its place in the center. The three of us kids were banished from the kitchen, given a few snacks and told not to interrupt unless it was a matter of life and death, literally. The few times that we did venture out to the kitchen and dared to ask a question we got “the glare” and turned around and left the room.
We waited for the annual phrases that we always heard, “What did YOU do with it?” and the response in a little bit louder tone, “I never saw it!” If we were lucky, along about suppertime all the receipts would go back in the shoebox. This time, however, they were in neat little piles and we knew we would not have the shoebox ordeal again until next year.
It is said that there are three things that are certain in life: you are born, you die and you pay taxes. So, why is tax time such a big ordeal every year for so many people? After all, it rolls around every year at the same time. So many times it is not even the issue of whether you will owe money or be getting a refund that causes the stress. It seems to lie more in getting things around and ready to file than the actual filing itself.
Granted, the whole shoebox ordeal was before the time of personal computers which revolutionized the whole tax thing with programs like Quicken and Turbo Tax. But, even with all the programs in the world, there is just so much paperwork that needs to be dealt with.
I have to admit that I fall into the same category as my parents most of the time except that I don’t have a shoebox. I am a little more organized than that. I have my receipts in their proper place in file folders in the filing cabinet. All paperwork is filed under the proper title except for the few that just don’t fit anywhere. This file is appropriately labeled “miscellaneous,” which is, in reality, just a smaller version of the shoebox.
Not only am I fairly well organized, I also have good intentions of getting everything ready to go to the tax man early in January. As a matter of fact, it is always one of my New Year’s resolutions to get my paperwork ready to go the first week of January and just add the end-of-the-year tax items to the files as they arrive in the mail. My intention is to be ready to just pick up the folder and walk out the door on tax day. And like other resolutions, this one always gets broken. Uh-huh.
However, I think the reason that this one gets broken is all part of a bigger plan. There is always a list of things that I need to do before spring breaks and I am outside again. These always take precedence over taxes.
For example, I would have started the taxes but closets needed to be cleaned. This year I have every closet cleaned and organized. This even includes the dreaded closet in the office room where all the old photographs, various cards from different folks that I have kept from year to year, Christmas wrapping paper that gets thrown back in the closet after the holidays in no particular order, and generally anything else that doesn’t have a home gets stashed. Not only did I clean the closet and organize it, I also managed to throw things out…things that I could not part with from year to year. I had to, I was running out of room for things that I just couldn’t part with this year that I will keep for a few more years before they are tossed.
I would have started the taxes but I also needed to paint the office room. It’s the only room in the house that has not been painted since we moved in. There were just so many things on the wall that every time the thought came up to paint this room, it was just easier to shut the door. It took a week to get the room torn apart and put back in order.
I also would have started the taxes but the kitchen cabinets needed cleaned and wiped down. So many people wait for spring to do spring cleaning and I really don’t see why. Winter is when you are stuck in the house anyway so it just seems logical that this would be the right time to start these chores. On top of that, if I didn’t start cleaning, I probably would have to start taxes.
I also made a resolution to really follow my exercise program this year. This one, I am proud to say, I have kept. I would have started the taxes on a few different occasions, but it was time to get my exercise in for the day. I literally had to choose between the two. It was a hard choice.
On a few occasions I did start my taxes. One day I added up the gasoline deductions. That was tiresome so I quit. A few days later I worked on my depreciation. That was a big one. I put it away for a week after that. Besides that, after each tax encounter, I thought I owed myself a treat. After each treat I had to go and exercise. It really is a vicious circle.
Mind you, I am not usually a procrastinator. My philosophy is that if something needs done, you may as well get at it and take care of it otherwise something else will crop up and things will just keep multiplying until you are overwhelmed. So why are taxes any different for many of us? They are just a fact of life, an unpleasant one, but still a fact of life.
I have come to the conclusion that by procrastinating on this subject makes me a better person. I actually work harder at not doing them than if I would just get them done. I know that. I also know that it will be the same next year and the year after that.
But I like the positive: by avoiding taxes, other things get done. It’s a sacrifice. If I hadn’t worked so hard at procrastinating on my taxes again this year, I wouldn’t have gotten so many other things on my list accomplished. There really is a method to my madness for shoebox season!
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