punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Tax Season

Well, I have filed my taxes and despite all my paranoid calculations which always edge on the side of insane bad luck, I got a refund instead of having to pay. This is awesome. Because we need the money like nobody's business. But it reminded me of this being the 22nd year of paying taxes.

I was 19 years old, and a manager of the Crown Books in Rose Hill in the spring of 1988. My journey from graduating high school and being on my own to running a book store was a winding and twisting road, but as I got my W2's and saw my name and status as "Manager," felt pretty proud of myself. Most of my fellow students I graduated with were still in their first year in college. Some of them would call me up, and they seemed like kids in comparison.

Me: Pretty cool. How was college?
Me: Oh, I am sorry, I have to work this weekend.
Friend: So, call in sick, man!
Me: I can't do that, who'd run the store? My assistant would have to work two weekend days solid, I can't do that to him. Besides, I have a yearly review of one of my cashiers, and my monthly book rep from Pocket books needs me to sign off on a PO.
Friend: ... bummer dude.

They eventually stopped calling, which was kind of sad, but... being an adult kind of means I had to leave those things behind. Another "adult" thing I faced that sticks in my mind was how to file taxes. My dad was already on the ball, full of helpful advice. First time we had really spoken since I moved out, he cut to the quick.

Dad: So don't file taxes, as I am claiming you as a dependent.
Me: Um... but I didn't live with you for most of the year. And you never paid for anything.
Dad: Don't be stupid, just let me handle it.
Me: But I am 19 and technically an adult.
Dad: Just do as I say.
Me: That doesn't sound legal...
Dad: You don't know what you're talking about! Just do as I say, and don't be a dummy.

After we hung up, I thought about it. My father never considered my interests in everything, and I was nervous that if I didn't pay taxes, the IRS would come get me and what would he care? So I filed taxes. I ended up owing money because one of my previous employers took out taxes on my paycheck but did not put them on my W2s in a moment of obvious fraud. I was filling out a 1040EZ at the time, and didn't understand how things worked very well. In retrospect, I could have really sued the guy, but I was 19, alone, and the only legal advice I had were "friends who said I should sue" (and who doesn't have a bunch of those?). It was a $900 lesson, which all but wiped any Federal refund that year. State taxes were another matter, however, and I got a hefty refund that softened that blow.

A few months later, I got a call from the IRS asking why I filed, and I told them my story. "Thank you," they said, agreeing that living with my father for 10 days at age 18 did not constitute me as a dependent in their eyes, either.

Then I got a call from my dad a few days later, FURIOUS. I told him I was not playing games with the IRS, that I was not legally a dependent, and he used the "you're so dumb you have no idea what you're talking about what a failure" speech he was famous for giving anyone he disagreed with. I have to say, even now, I still get a little defensive, because even though I felt defrauding the IRS was a bad idea, I can still feel like I am 1 inch tall as my dad berated me on how I was so immature at not understanding how the real world operates. My dad had this amazing ability to do this to others, and I was no exception. I am not sure what the IS did to him, but I hope it gave him and his half a million annual income a hefty fine.

Every few years, I go through my paperwork and shred old documents. I save anything that seems important for 7 years or more, which includes tax returns. But one tax return I have never shredded is that one from 1988. Maybe it's childish, but when I open the manila envelope from time to time, I laugh like Bender from Futurama, "Hee hee hee..." My W2 from Crown Books is faded so much, you can barely make out the printer ink, but I still have some kind of weird pride at seeing "Manager" by my name.
Tags: childhood, finances, taxes
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