The price we pay

by Lorin Michel Thursday, April 2, 2015 10:15 PM

As it’s April 2, Kevin and I thought it was about time we tackle that yearly chore known as taxes. We actually had an appointment with our accountant earlier in the week but there was simply no way we would have been ready. With the move and most of our lives still in boxes, with the loss of Cooper and our devastation; with our general exhaustion, we actually were worse than not ready. We hadn’t even started.

Our accountant, a great Irish guy named Grady McNutt, has been doing my taxes since before Kevin and I got married, and both of our taxes since we did. I found Grady after I got divorced. I had no idea how to find an accountant so I looked for one who was close to me, which he was. I also loved his name. It sounded like something out of a Leon Uris novel. That was back in the early 1990s. I probably could have used a service like H & R Block, or even done my own since I still had a “real” job at that point. But by 1995, when I decided to become a freelance writer, I definitely needed someone who was well versed in the art of taxes for the self-employed. This is not a rap on H & R Block. It’s just that I wanted to develop a relationship with someone who would know me and my business as well as he knows tax stuff.

Twenty years later, Grady and I are still together. Now we include Kevin in our coupleship and we’re all very happy. Oh, sure. There was the one year when we went to see him and had absolutely nothing prepared. We thought we had more than we did. Turns out we had the equivalent of a shoe box of receipts that we proceeded to dump on his desk. He was not happy. In fact, he got very mad at us. I’m sure, like today, it was very close to tax day and he really didn’t have time to screw around. Kevin and I were both shocked, shocked I tell you, at how mad he was. We felt like chastised children. We were sure we would be getting a new accountant. But Grady realized how horrible he had behaved, even if we were the ones at fault, apologized and showered us with tickets to Dodger games.

Today it occurred to both Kevin and I that we were meeting with Grady at 3. Neither one of us had done a thing to prepare. Actually that’s not true. I had downloaded all of my bank statements. Since I do almost everything electronically, I simply go through each one of those statements to decipher deposits and expenses. It’s not efficient and for my more business minded friends, I realize I should be using something like Quickbooks or whatever. But this works for me in the same way not balancing my checkbook ever works for me.

That sound you hear is my father, groaning from beyond the grave.

Kevin’s record keeping is much more detailed and business like than mine. It works for us and more importantly, it works for Grady, supplying him with what he needs in order to prepare our taxes by April 15 so that we can file an extension. We never actually file until October so that we can make SEP contributions. That doesn’t mean we don’t and won’t owe though.

On April 15, I’ll write a check to the US Treasury and another to the state for the taxes that will bring us up to date on last year. Then I’ll start paying monthly amounts. Since both Kevin and I are self-employed, we are paid in gross amounts and thus not taxed. Therefore, we must make it up to the government.

And I’m OK with that. I understand that taxes are necessary to fund things that make our country possible. I don’t like writing the checks, but I don’t really begrudge it. I like my roads paved, I like good public schools, and police and fire departments.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, said this in a dissenting opinion issued on November 21, 1927: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure.” He was known to confront anyone who would say “I hate to pay taxes” with “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

I’m with Holmes here. We live in a democracy, we have a country of some 330 million people. Do people who are being honest really believe that a country of this size could exist as this one does without money coming in from its civilians? Could we have the military we have?

Taxes are what we pay. For dams and national parks and clean air and water. For air traffic controllers and airport security and drug regulation. For teachers. For animal shelters. For helping children. For being civilized. While I don’t like everything my taxes help pay for, I do understand why. And I’m good with that. It’s the price of living it out loud.

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live out loud

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