Monday, February 1, 2010

The IRS Is Coming To Get Me

Since the first of the year, many of the 300+ channels of satellite TV that the High Mountain Lodge subscribes to and advertises as a desirable amenity to potential guests have been infested with advertisements for tax preparation programs. Intuit (the makers of TurboTax) and H&R Block have been buying huge blocks of ad time showing happy people answering simple questions on their computer screens then hitting a button, and presto! the gummint sends them a check for two thousand dollars. 

I swear, if either of those companies buys Super Bowl time, I will and the Saints can fall into the Gulf of Mexico with the rest of the city.

I have been using tax software programs for years to do my taxes, pausing periodically to pay a CPA to "check my work" as we used to say in 7th-grade algebra class. The programs have gotten incredibly better since I paid over a hundred dollars for the first iteration of "Mac-in-Tax" back in the 1980s when the Apple Computer Company decided that color computing might be the Wave of the Future.

That first program was a joke. It was basically all the forms where you could fill in amounts, which got added and subtracted automatically so you wouldn't get audited for a math error. If you clicked the "help" button, it took you to the verbatim IRS instructions. I'm pretty sure there is not enough GIN in the world to make me read that verbiage. When you begin reading a sentence, you're pretty sure that it's in English, but by the time you get to the end of it, you're not so sure.

The programs got better over the years, and by the time I got laid off from my job in 2008, I was doing my taxes on my computer with flair and élan. Gone were the days when the computer would ask me, at two in the morning, for documentation for some obscure deduction and I would let out a primal scream and begin digging through the file cabinet for a statement that I was pretty sure we'd burned in the fireplace last October when the weather turned chilly. The scream would make the dog start barking, and that would wake my wife, and she'd come down to see if I was all right, then speculate about how much money we were going to get back on our taxes.

I wonder if law enforcement tracks an uptick in suicides and axe murders in the weeks leading up to April 15?

This year, we're having an accountant do our taxes. With two corporate structures as well as our personal taxes, I can't imagine what disdainful questions Turbo Tax would ask me in the "interview" process.

But getting your taxes done by a person is equally an experience of exquisite misery--similar to those early years of Mac-In-Tax. The accountants ask all the same questions that the programs do, but in a different order. They have their own forms. "So, wait," I ask, "You want us to fill out these forms so that you can put that information in the IRS forms. Why don't you give me the IRS forms?"

You can see where I'm going with this.

"We do this to make it easier for our clients."

Yeah, right, and I got a tan from that Blue Moon last December on New Year's Eve.

As we work to improve the High Mountain Lodge and make it a more welcoming place for guests, we plan to continue to focus on our hospitality, our food, and the comfort of our rooms. We have no intention of burdening our guests with our tax struggles (God knows, they have enough of their own). But if you book with us in the last days of Winter Park's season (they close on April 18), don't be surprised if we feed you champagne, brie, and caviar. There are adversities in life that cannot be avoided, and tax season is one of them. Just getting through it is a monumental feat, and it demands a celebration.

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