12 March 2007

I Owe, I Owe - It's Off to Work I Go!

It was an unhappy weekend here at the Fortress of Solitude. Yesterday was tax preparation day. I'd been putting off this relatively easy task for a month-plus now, mostly because I was sure that my refund was going to be extremely small this year. If I was expecting enough money to fund a summer vacation, I would have been all over this at the beginning of February.

After plugging in all of the information from the W-2 and 1099s, deducting all of the deductions, exempting all of the exemptions, and ciphering until I could cipher no more, it turns out that I owe $222 to my Uncle Sam. This, of course, led me to believe that there must have been some mistake - I NEVER owe. I usually get a smaller-than-everyone-else refund, which I am OK with, because it means that I have had more of my money to do with as I please than those who get huge refunds. But, I don't OWE. In 18 years of filing a 1040 (or equivalent), I have never owed money on April 15. This year, when all of my friends are talking about spending their tax refunds on a vacation to Bermuda, I am going to be squealing as I write a check that will help subsidize their Hawaiian shirt wearing behinds.

How did this happen? Well, I did make more money this year than last (a good problem to have) from my day job. I also worked as an independent contractor this year (more than last), from which there was no money withheld. On top of that, I also owe self-employment tax on that money. Passive income was up, too. Thanks to my ING account, my interest earned was better than 20 times what I earned last year in my feeble Wachovia account. Unfortunately (fortunately, from a tax paying standpoint), my interest paid was also up on my student loans. I have a decreasing outstanding loan amount, but my interest paid increases....UGH!

From a tax standpoint, my problem is that I don't spend nearly enough. My medical expenses, including health insurance premiums, were well below the required threshold for deductibility. If I got sick more often, I would spend more money on healthcare, and I would save on my tax bill. My mortgage is abominably tiny - and therefore, so is the interest I pay on my primary residence. It is so small, that I also do not meet the minimum threshold for itemizing deductions. If I spent more money, to get a bigger house (that I neither need, nor can afford), I could save money on my taxes. I could also contribute more to charity, make a large capital purchase (sales tax savings), or sell stocks at a loss to reduce my tax burden. Unfortunately, I didn't - so, I can't.

One thing that really chaps me is the low income tax credit for retirement savings. This money is designed to encourage those who would otherwise not contribute to a self-funded retirement account to save money. Obviously, this is a win for the government. If they can get more people to save for retirement, there may be less of a burden on the social security system in years to come. Unfortunately, they think that "low income" caps out at $25k/yr for single filers. By just bumping that up to $50k, it would appear that more people would participate (I am thinking of the 20-something colleagues that I know that have no concept of retirement savings), which would alleviate some government burden in the future, and cost relatively little in present day dollars. Of course, the most important benefit would be that I would have my tax bill eased.

Today's patron saint of this blog is Mr. Pink, from 'Reservoir Dogs' who said it best. "It would seem to me that The Travelin' Man belongs to one of the many groups the government @$^%s in the $^% on a regular basis."

And, it hurts. :-(


Anonymous said...

Ouch - that sucks. I'll let you know what becomes of my tax filing edeavor this coming weekend. Great title - by the way!

Anonymous said...

I have been self-employed since the early 1990's, so I feel your pain. I pay estimated taxes quarterly, so I get this feeling 4 times a year.

The Travelin' Man said...

Yikes...I would not want to deal with this nightmare once every four months. Although, I wonder if dealing with taxes more often, would hold me more accountable to paying attention to things that might reduce my tax bill? As it stands, with payroll deductions, I never see what I pay in taxes until this time of year when I do my 1040. If I saw money - literally - coming out of my pocket, I wonder if it would affect my own ability to deal with tax issues more proactively.

karthi said...
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