Doing your taxes is like vacuuming. It doesn’t matter what country, zip code or time zone you’re in, it’s not fun. I don’t object in principle to having to file my taxes (nor to having to pay them) but I do find the process of preparing and filing my return frustratingly complicated and supremely unsatisfying.
Since I moved in with Dan in 1998, I’ve been the household tax preparer. Back then, it took me an hour or so to do the taxes — the only complicated part was figuring out if I could deduct the payments I was making on my student loans (I never could). Since then we’ve owned a home, had our own business and had kids — all of which complicated our tax situation. But, as the years went on, I got pretty good at the process of filing. I became good friends with Turbo Tax, and after years of figuring out how to correctly answer each question, it got to be a habit — a tedious habit, but not a terribly big deal. It took hours and hours, which was always compounded by the fact that even though I always thought I had my paperwork together, there was always something to track down or look up at the last minute. Then, there were the deductible work expenses, the charitable donations (which I always itemized and recorded when we made the donation, but never actually added up until tax time), the health care receipts, the utility bills, etc, etc, etc.
But, I basically knew what I was doing. This year is a whole different animal. I’m exploring parts of Turbo Tax that I’ve never seen before. Part of our income is exempt from taxes, but not all; we have to record both our US and Austrian bank accounts and interest earned; we have to document every dime we spent on housing while here (which includes living in three different places, two of which we paid for in cash); and I’m also discovering that there’s documentation we have to provide to the US Treasury, too (separate from our tax return). Oh, and I have to keep track of what we’ve got written down in Euros and what is in dollars, and make sure everything gets converted correctly. One of the main problems is that unlike doing our typical taxes at home, we didn’t even know everything we had to keep track of, so now we have to scramble to find information that we have . . . somewhere . . . I think . . . I hope . . .
This is not fun. I don’t think I’ve been so unsure of what I’m doing since the very first year I filed on my own. I shudder to think how I’d feel if I wasn’t accustomed to doing my taxes myself. Never have I wished more to be able to bring my (literal) shoebox of receipts to a tax preparer and turn the whole thing over. Funnily enough, they don’t seem to have H&R Block in Austria. Bummer.