Tax day: Annual whack upside the head

Commentator Harriet Brackey

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Harriet Brackey: I know why they invented the tax form.

TESS VIGELAND: Commentator Harriet Brackey.


Harriet Brackey: Let's face it: You wouldn't deal with this stuff any other way. The IRS is breathing down your neck. Get going!

I mean, a tax form is like a to-do list for your personal finances that you can't put off. You have to look at it, and usually, you're going to feel some pain. Good, I say. Look at it and suffer. And vow to get things in order in the future.

No one likes taxes, but honestly, I don't mind them. Everything fits somewhere, unlike in the rest of your life. You can write off things as large as a circus elephant or as small as what I'm putting into my retirement account these days.

You match the list of tax breaks to your life's expenses. Paid for the kid's worthless college tuition? Check. That could be a deduction. Didn't get paid back on the loan to your worthless brother-in-law? Check, that could be one, too. Didn't get to cash out of that Big Bank stock before it went belly up? Check. They have thought of everything. I'm telling you, you might as well just submit.

Your whole life is going to be reflected in your tax form somehow. But unlike in life, all these decisions you made last year, at least on your tax return, come to a conclusion, nice and neat. You add it all up, look down at the bottom and you owe something or they owe you. It's one or the other.

For ordinary people, taxes are the annual whack upside of the head. It says, "Hey, you gonna be smart or what? You gonna save for retirement and take the deduction or what? Will you make some tax-advantaged moves that are actually smooth or not? Which is it?" The tax form demands an answer.

Now, one final piece of advice: If you start bragging about what a cool tax-saving dude you are and look here, at this nifty little deduction you found, I guarantee you, it'll take the buzz out of date night. Don't do it. Don't brag about your taxes. Just get 'em done.

Vigeland: Harriet Brackey writes a personal finance column for the Florida Sun Sentinel.

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