Rendering Unto Caesar
Though it’s a little later in the season than I typically like to go, I made an appointment to get my taxes done yesterday. My taxes are pretty easy to do, but I will admit to some paranoia about audits and prison and governments being mad at me – I don’t have any reason to fear those things, as I’m not trying to rip anyone off, but I think that’s why it’s called “paranoia” and not “groundedinfactoia.”
I’d gone to this place before (okay, fine, it was Jackson Hewitt), but last year I bought TurboTax to try to save some money. It turned out that with the fees to electronically submit my returns, it cost about the same as having them done, so I figured I’d just go back to Jackson Hewitt this year. I called them on Saturday and made an appointment for yesterday.
I got there a little earlier than scheduled and the nice older lady (I’m guessing she was in her early 70s) had me fill out a form. There was a bucket of candy on the counter, so I had a piece of Hershey’s milk chocolate, which I’ve really been enjoying lately, probably as a response to all the bad advice Dove chocolate has given me over the years.
When I’m done filling out the form, the lady takes me back her cubicle amidst a bunch of other cubicles which do nothing to prevent anyone from hearing your conversation, as evidenced by the other tax lady prairie-dogging her head over the wall and jumping into our conversation. It’s a good thing I didn’t have anything embarrassing to declare – “Well, I was in prison for most of last year, do I have to declare the 30 cents a day I earned making license plates?” or “Can I file jointly with all three of my wives? What if they’re each in a different state?” I actually wonder if people get into the tax-preparation business because they like to hear about other people’s money and problems. “You owe… let’s see… 43 million dollars to the government this year. Wow! That’s the most I’ve ever seen! I’m sad for your circumstances, but impressed at the same time!”
This lady took about 8 minutes to do my taxes, which should tell you how easy they are to do. She asked a couple of questions, showed me what my return would be, and then said, “That’ll be $167.”
Granted, I hadn’t asked about price when I made the appointment, as I’d figured it’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of $60-70 like it was the last time I did this. but $167? I figured it must be a $100 charge since I didn’t use them last year. I let her know that this was a surprising figure to me.
“Well, we can hold onto the paperwork until you’re ready to pay for it.”
“Um, I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to pay $167 to have my taxes done.”
I apologized somewhere between 7-10 times for having taken up her time, and she said “It’s okay” in a tone that clearly indicated it was not, and then I left.
I got in my car and Twittered that I was going to Best Buy to get a software solution. Literally two seconds after I Twittered that, my friend Brian called and basically said, “Don’t waste your money.” He told me he had a list of 19 different free ways to do my taxes and then said, “And if you have State Farm Insurance, you can do TurboTax Online for free.” As it happens, I do have State Farm, and as it further happens, he was right: you can do TurboTax Online for free if you’re with State Farm, both state and federal.
It took me about 45 minutes to get everything entered and checked, re-checked, and printed, but they’re done and submitted and I already had an email this morning that said my federal return was accepted. Sweet.
Now I wait 9-12 days to get my returns electronically deposited and then blow the money in riotous living, which in this case is defined as “putting some in savings and most on paying bills.” Maybe next year I’ll do something even more riotous, like put a down payment on a house.