You have Christmas. You have Easter. You have Flu. You have March Madness. You have Spring. You have Football. You have Allergy. So many seasons.
But the only season that counts in my household has finally passed...Tax Season.
I’ve been married to a CPA with his own practice for 33 years. Thirty-three years of managing our entire lives and calendars around TAX SEASON. It’s a fascinating and frustrating experience, to be sure. I have to admit, after all these years, I’m used to it. But if you have never lived under the same roof with a tax preparer, you have no idea what these four months are like.
Joe (the CPA) and I got married on January 5th. We went on a beautiful honeymoon to Boston and to the Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe Vermont. We were serenaded by Edelweiss as we had romantic dinners in front of a fire. We skied, badly. We took a horse drawn sleigh ride. It was amazing. We came home on January 10th. Then he put on his game face. It was ON. I don’t think we had another conversation until April 16th. I thought, “Well, that was quick”. I was immediately introduced to the world of taxes and what it takes to dig through the mountains of paper and forms, so everyone can comply with their government obligations.
First of all, it’s not just April 15th. W-2’s must be mailed by January 30th. Corporations must file by March 15th. So, the first bustle of work must be done convincing business owners to get their proverbial act together, so all the financial information can be compiled and distilled into a reasonable facsimile of truth.
This means dealing with people who believe they know how to keep a set of books. Just because you know how to open QuickBooks and enter some numbers does not a bookkeeper make. My daughter, Sunny, who works with Joe, is an excellent bookkeeper and her head actually explodes as she tries to wade through the morass of numbers and accounts and receipts that are haphazardly thrown at her.
And then, there are the individuals. I know you think it’s cute to show up at your tax preparer’s office with a shoe box full of random pieces of paper. But, trust me, for those of us who wait at home with dinner and a sympathetic smile, there is hell to pay. One of Joe’s clients always mails him a huge box that she has painstakingly decoupaged with pictures all over it. She thinks it will bring a smile. She is wrong.
There are those procrastinators who begin to gather their information on April 14th. Can’t you just file an extension? Well, he has to at least figure out what you might owe, so there’s still a time factor involved, even in filing an extension.
There are the clients who have been told repeatedly that they are not withholding enough, who explode when informed how much they owe. Let’s kill the messenger.
There are the clients who dump 25 hours’ worth of work on the desk and then call to complain about the bill.
There are clients whose files sit on his desk while he calls them repeatedly until the last day to get them to bring their stuff in. Honestly, if they don’t care, I’m not sure why he should. But that’s the kind of professional he is.
Of course, there are wonderful, diligent and organized clients who come in prepared and are always grateful for the excellent work that is done for them. And they bring bottles of vodka. He currently has 40 bottles of vodka sitting in his office brought by his sweet, appreciative clients. To his credit, they stay sealed during tax season.
In our house, especially when the kids were young, everything revolved around TAX SEASON. We never took a Spring Break trip. It’s TAX SEASON. We never visited family. It’s TAX SEASON. We never went out to dinner. It’s TAX SEASON. We never celebrated Easter. It’s TAX SEASON. I did my best to keep the house running smoothly, keep food stocked, laundry done, and never, ever talk about anything that needs to be done, planned or considered until after April 16th.
Sunny was born in February. Obviously bad planning on our part. Joe would run up to the hospital, coo at his darling baby girl and then run back to the office. It’s TAX SEASON. Now that I travel for a living, he’s always amazed that people schedule events that I must attend. Don’t they know it’s TAX SEASON?
It’s 12-hour days, seven days a week, for 4 months. It’s coming home, grabbing nourishment, falling asleep on the couch and then crawling to bed at 9:00 so he can leave again at 6:00 the next morning. It’s brutal. While the introduction of more computerized filings and forms has been helpful, it does not alleviate the brain crunching attention to detail that must be given to make sure that every item is correct, every number perfect, every field filled out. All that on-line filing means is that we don’t have to stand at the copy machine for hours on end printing out hard copies. Nothing else is easier.
After the new “tax bill” was passed this year, Joe and I went to see his mother for the holidays. The last trip before TAX SEASON. I drove while he read through 600 pages of unintelligible code and changes. He had a yellow highlighter, a green highlighter and a red pen. Occasionally, I would see him underline a section in red and write “WTF” in the margins. I’m sure that was the reaction of CPAs all over the country.
So, as you gather your financial records and forms and paraphernalia to see whoever it is that prepares your taxes this coming year, please take a moment to appreciate the intense, grueling work that is going on behind the scenes. Try to be a little more focused and intentional about your files. Don’t wait until the last minute. Do not complain when you are given bad news. And hug your CPA. And your CPA’s family. They could all use a little TLC during TAX SEASON.
Glenda Stansbury is a recent survivor of another TAX SEASON, and Marketing Director of InSight Books and Co-Founder of InSight Institute Certified Celebrant Program. She is also a speaker, a trainer, and an observer of life, and one of Doug Manning’s adorable and talented daughters. You may email Glenda at OrdersAndInfo@InSightBooks.com.