I skipped the annual 4/15 party and drove straight back to my bed in WI.
Pretty much did not get out of said bed until Sunday.
Saturday was the first day I managed to stay awake all day, hence, the getting up on Sunday.
Feeling good now.
Except for the piles of snow that surround the house.
I think spring may have taken a pass on us this year.
Smokey reminds me that there was a blizzard on April 22, 1974. He remembers it because he was snowed in at a friend's apartment, and I gave him hell the next morning for not coming home the night before.
Apparently I give him hell so seldom that when I do, he remembers it for 39 years.
Such is the secret of a happy marriage.
Hoping that we have seen the last and final blizzard of winter, 2012-13.
That would have been Monday night, when I was driving home from a meeting 20+ miles away from home.
40mph all the way home, except when I slowed down because 40mph felt way too fast.
Very little knitting took place during tax season.
What did occur happened at Knit Night Orphans, who meet every Friday night at a Starbucks in St Paul.
That little gathering is the high point of my week during tax season.
As of this week I find myself back at work at the accounting factory. I was supposed to start Monday, but we got hit with a blizzard on Sunday with winter storm warnings and travel advisories all the way until Monday evening.
So I stayed at home in my cozy bed and read mysteries and snuggled the cat and surfed the net on my iPad and played computer games with Smokey and occasionally got up for something yummy to eat. And to watch Downton Abbey on Sunday and Hawaii 5-0 on Monday.
No more of that for me. Now it is Spreadsheets! and Tax returns! and Get them out the door! until April 15.
Many years ago I opined that a good job was one that, once you got there in the morning, it wasn't so bad. That is definitely still true. I really wanted to stay at home this year and read mysteries, etc., etc., etc., but it was not to be. And now that I am at work it is not so bad. Almost fun, even. Almost...
* * * * *
Last Friday night Smokey, Matthew, and I saw C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band at the Ordway Center in St. Paul. C.J. is the son of Clifton Chenier, the king of zydeco.
Smokey loves zydeco.
Good blogger that I am, I carefully tucked my camera in my tote bag. Bad blogger that I am, I left my tote bag in the car so had to make do with the camera in my iPod.
The Ordway is a lovely venue.
My attempt at a panoramic view of the auditorium.
Here are part of the street and mezzanine levels of the lobby.
They had set up a dance floor over the orchestra pit. First one brave couple, then a few more, then it filled up with people be-bopping their little hearts out.
I took a movie. Audio came out better than the video, go figger. The original was inverted because I was holding the iPod upside down, but when I uploaded it to YouTube, that fixed it. Enjoy!
During intermission Matthew let me try on his glasses. I may be getting new ones and I wanted his opinion on horn rims.
My nose is NOT really that big (quite) -- it was how I was holding the camera/iPod. There may be a pair of hornrims in my future...
Note: This is a post I wrote in April, 2011. I had been away from tax work for two years and found that things had changed in the interim.
Tax policy may not be everyone's favorite topic. I'd rather talk merino and Magic Loop and the best way to pill a cat, but right now I am thinking about tax policy, and that is what you get.
I work on tax returns for what are euphemistically called "high net worth individuals", which is another way of saying "rich people". This means I am highly conversant with 1040s and the accompanying forms and schedules that are common among the rich. I can read a broker's year-end summary with aplomb, I know what goes where on a K-1, I have a passing knowledge of at-risk calculations, I rock the foreign tax credit and the haircut on dividend income from foreign mutual funds, and I used to be the recognized expert in our office on making the tax software do kiddie tax right. (We use different software now.) Rich people also tend to invest in a lot of partnerships of one kind or another and to set up trusts or some such for their kids and grandkids.
It is that last item that I want to talk about here.
Tax law has created an ever-growing and astonishisng number of vehicles for avoiding or minimizing taxes. Forget about tex benefits for the middle class. Tax law in the past 10 or 20 years has been all about the rich. A couple of well-established deduction-reducers that applied only to those whose income was north of $150,000 or so went away since 2009, the last year I did taxes. Every time I see a high-income person's itemized deductions and exemptions being subtracted 100% from their income I grit my teeth; they used to be scaled back the higher one's income was. No more.
What I see this year are trusts -- GRATs, GRITS, GSTs, CLUTs. CRTs. The "T" in each one stands for "'trust". There are grantor trusts and grantor retained annuity trusts and on and on ad nauseum.
Of the 37 tax returns I have worked on this year, 25 -- over 70% -- have been trusts.
And every single solitary one of them was created for the sole purpose of avoiding or reducing inheritance taxes.
If the rest of this post makes your eyes glaze over -- and I cannot think of a single reason why it wouldn't if you are not a tax accountant or attorney -- remember that one statistic. Over 70% of the tax returns I did this year were for entities that were created solely for tax avoidance or elimination.
The rich pay their attorneys and accountants thousands -- and tens of thousands -- of dollars rather than pay taxes.
Do the attorneys and accountants create anything? Do they improve the quality of life in America? How is their labor adding to our national (or world-wide) well-being?
They do not. Their work is depleting it, in fact, because the dollars these people do not pay in taxes are therefore not available to fund schools, roads, national parks, the national debt, WIC, Head Start, public broadcasting, or anything else.
Grrrr. Maybe it is just because I am tired, or because Wisconsin is in the midst of an aggressibvel attack on unions and the middle class (Ed. note: remember, this was April, 2011), or because I am a born whiner, but right now I am fully disgusted with America.
Which is not to say I'll give up this job. It pays handsomely (some of those thousands that the rich pay their accountants trickles down to me) and, ethics aside, it is fun. I like to work with numbers and computers.
Here is my printout of the sign hanging by my desk (in a place where it is not immediately obvious to everyone walking by -- never a good idea to broadcast one's ignorance at work). I had to print it in b&w and go after it with colored markers.
See that bag of Udi's granola on the desk? It came with a story. Let me tell you it.
I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work* last night to pick up some breakfast and snack and dinner provisions. I was idly watching the screen on the checker's terminal while she scanned the items and noticed a $634 total at the bottom of the screen. At first I thought that must be a shift total or her personal total on that machine, but as I scanned the column of scanned-in prices I saw that my bag of granola came in at...
(wait for it)
I pointed that out and she rescanned it, with the same result. She did a price check, same result. But this time she was laughing and telling the other checkers about my $618 bag of granola. Apparently the price had been input wrong on the front end. In all the hysteria and laughing and trying to correct the error she reversed the entry for a box of crackers (normal price of $2.42), but I was so disgustingly honest I pointed it out.
* Yes, Smokey is well enough now that I can leave him for days at a time. He walks with just a cane now, has been able to cut way back on the pain meds, and will probably return to work sometime in the next month.
Actually, Monday was my last day. Tuesday (today) was the all-day organizational meeting of the new county board. And it WAS all day -- 9am to 4:30, phew. It took that long to revise the rules of order and to vote on committee assignments. I will have my third term on the finance committee (yay!) and managed to get myself elected to the public protection committee. I figure watching Perry Mason, The Defenders (remember them?), Boston Legal, L.A. Law, and every iteration of Law && Order qualifies me to serve on that committee. Right? Right?
The other exciting news is that I am writing this post on my brand-new iPad! What a fun toy. So far I have set up most of the same apps that I have on my iPod Touch -- Gmail and some other Google apps, a couple Twin Cities TV stations for news, Skype, Twitter, a weather app, the Kindle app, Adobe Reader.
Something I figured out while doing all that was that the iPad would be the perfect way to read a daily newspaper again. We have been without a daily paper for most of the past 13 years since we moved to rural Wisconsin. The Minneapolis paper has never had daily delivery here; we subscribed to the St Paul paper for a few months but basically it sucks as a newspaper, we even subscribed to the NYTimes for a while -- always at least a day late but still possibly better than nothing but not enough better to justify the cost. I really, really missed reading the morning paper --it and my breakfast and morning coffee had been a treasured part of my daily routine for many years.
All this is to say I subscribed to the iPad version of the NYTimes tonight.We shall see if it is worth $20/month. The iPad is plugged into its charger right next to my bed. I may start to start the day with the newspaper again.I''m getting excited just thinking about it!
In fourth quarter 2011, MNCPA [Minnesota Society of CPAs] surveyed members to identifythe most creative tax deductions proposed by clients. Survey results are being shared with the media as part of the MNCPA's tax campaign promoting hiring a CPA for tax preparation. Following is the MNCPA list of strange deductions for 2011. It's a good bet that many of these deductions would have triggered a letter from the IRS had a CPA not intervened and encouraged the tax filers to not include them on their returns.
1. Questionable dependents. One woman wanted to include the months she was pregnant, even though she relinquished rights upon the child's birth; another taxpayer wanted to claim his elected official because he "pays his salary;" and one taxpayer wanted to claim a former spouse.
2. Charitable donations? The market value of whole blood that the taxpayer donated; a $100,000 deduction for burning down an old cabin; gambling losses; private school tuition; and raffle tickets.
3. "Fido" as a business expense. Pets proved popular with taxpayers wanting to deduct everything from pet food to vet bills.
4. Inflated mileage calculations. A handyman proposed taking a $25,000 mileage deduction, even though he had only $10,000 in revenue. He justified it by saying he drove 50,000 business miles in one year.
5. Creative medical expenses. A rental house in Arizona; an in-ground swimming pool without a doctor's order; a spouse's drug habit; breast implants and tummy tucks.
6. Investment or not? An attorney's fees for a divorce, considered an "investment" by the former spouse.
7. Business travel and entertainment deductions. A personal luxury car; three country club memberships; a motor home; and the full cost of a wedding.
The saddest part? I didn't even find these funny. They all just sounded like part of a normal day's work...
Tax season has been keeping me quite busy (=understatement of the week).
I have photos of interesting things that have happened at the office, but it is all things you have seen in previous years -- the 10-key race, the Saturday morning Bloody Marys.
Yes, we accountants are an exciting lot.
I did a return today for a couple with a couple hundred thousand dollars in income, taxable income of $69,000, and who had zero tax.
I thought there was something wrong with the software. So did the accountant who sits in the next cubicle when I showed it to her.
Even after my manager explained to me how it worked -- something to do with dividend income and the 15% rate -- I still boggled.
It may be right, but it ain't right, if you know what I mean.
Today was election day in Wisconsin. Presidential primary, plus county and municipal elections.
I was up for reelection. I had pretty much resigned myself to not being reelected, for a number of reasons.
Mainly because I did zero campaigning. In previous years I at least sent a flyer to all voters in my district. This year I decided that was a waste of postage because roughly half of them get returned as undeliverable.
I won anyway, 150 to 139.
The high voter turnout was probably due to the presidential primary.
There are ~1900 souls in my district.
I had done such a good job of resigning myself to losing -- think of all the time I would have to knit, with no meetings to go to! -- that I was a bit disappointed to win.
Last Monday and Tuesday was the annual knitting retreat tax conference, 16 CPE credits paid for by my employer.
As always, there was a lot of this.
But also there was this during lunch the first day.
That is a most excellent a cappella group, Home Free, that in addition to energetic choreographed singing, also played air guitar and air drums and air bass during parts of their songs. I must admit that there were a lot of puzzled looks among the gray-haired set (also among everyone else -- accountants are nothing if not easily puzzled by anything out of the ordinary), even when they were singing Rockin' Robin, which first hit the charts in 1958.
The official t-shirt made a somewhat dubious claim.
There was a bit of humor in the technology update session. I did manage a fair bit of knitting whilst getting myself up to date on technology, individual income tax, generational differences as they relate to CPA firm employees, Social Security, trusts, not-for-profits, and ethics.
Sweater for co-worker's baby shower next week.
One more stripe after the dark red one, and two sleeves. No problem, mon.
(That WIP photo in yesterday's post was taken over a week ago.)
A sampling of quotes at the office, dating back to 2009:
"My nose is watering."
* * * * *
"You looked like a cat, or something scary."
* * * * *
"I don't know how this happened, but I woke up this morning."
* * * * *
"So I guess I can't put my hand warmers back in my bra." (said during a meeting with a client)
* * * * *
J: (stands up and sees M) "I was going to ask you something earlier…" M: "How to unfreeze pipes? You use a hair drier."
* * * * *
"This is how I always watch the news (muted). I just need to make up my own stories."
* * * * *
A: "I slapped myself this morning." B: "Literally?" A: "Yes, it helped. You should try it some time."
* * * * *
"I sometimes think there really are monsters. I picture them as gangsters."
* * * * *
"You know what Vista is? It's like a bad date. At first it's enticing and full of new features, but then it just keeps shutting you down."
* * * * *
"I can't help if I have a disorder called 'I need at least 5 hours of sleep a night'"
* * * * *
"Busy season is like having multiple children. You forget the pain until you are right in the middle of it again. At first you are like, Bring it on! Then you're like, Who did this to me?!"
* * * * *
"I totally just swallowed down my nose."
* * * * *
Male co-worker: "I used to be a stud muffin." Female co-worker #1: "Now you're just a bran muffin." Female co-worker #2: "Well, at least he's got good fiber."
* * * * *
"Did you know that at the restaurant that I went to, the po' boy sandwich was $5. If you po', you ain't paying no $5 for no sandwich."
* * * * *
Co-worker #M to co-worker #N: "Did you have too much sugar again today?" Co-worker #O: "You do look awfully tan."
* * * * *
“I wonder how much my life would change if I went on Adderall.”
* * * * *
“I thought you said that’s extra kinky and then I was wondering why I was missing that conversation…”
* * * * *
“I think I’m bi-polar – Veggie Monster one day and Cookie Monster the next.”
* * * * *
“I’m supposed to stop drinking. Well, at least that’s what I told myself this morning.”
* * * * *
(a few days before April 15) “I love this time of year! It’s so easy to get high. All you have to do is get something to balance.”
* * * * *
“It’s kind of like that – wait – what’s the saying? ‘FUBAR’? No, maybe just ‘user error’.”
* * * * *
S: “I want a snuggie.” T: (disgusted look) “You what?!” (S looks at her questioningly) T: “What am I thinking of? Oh, yeah, wedgie! I was thinking you told us you had a wedgie and was wondering why you were telling everyone that!”
* * * * *
“I’ve been slightly sick for a long time. I hope I don’t have cancer.”
* * * * *
(on phone to tech support) “I’m calling to report a couple printer issues...yeah, sure, it’s MIN – M as in Mary, I as in I...”
* * * * *
“I’m black. I’m just albino.”
* * * * *
Co-worker who is five months preganant: “I keep looking at my stomach and thinking, Wow, I’m getting fat because I keep forgetting. I mean sometimes I will feel bloated, but I can suck it in but now it’s like something is in there. And then I remember, Wait, there is something in there!”
* * * * *
H: “Did you just ask me a question that I ignored?” J: “Not that I recall.” H: “Oh, ok, I’m not surprised. I’ve been seeing bugs too. I’ve thought this paper clip was a cockroach several times today and have freaked out.”
* * * * *
And now, my favorite...
"It tastes like cat food without the salty after-taste."
Today is the deadline for fiduciary tax returns -- trusts -- that were extended back in April. I am pretty sure it was the deadline for some other types of returns, too, but trusts were what I was working on.
The last days leading up to a deadline are odd. Long hours, fatigued brains trying to think logically, frantic scrambling to make the tax return balance/make the return make sense/make this return look like that one that is similar/trying to make the software do what we think we want, all of this interrupted by occasional uncontrollable fits of laughter when someone goes over the edge.
Monday night I worked until 11. Tuesday night I worked until 10.
Wednesday? Two hours of actual work in the entire day; left at 4:30.
Today? I think I will leave early again. There is a party at a downtown bar at 5:00, but I think I would rather relax at the lake with Smokey and Lucy The Wonder Dog and Hannibal The Fluffball Of Doom and En Esch The Incredibly Stoopid.
* * * * *
Apropos of nothing I need to tell what I saw yesterday: a young woman in the skyway wearing bright purple dress, matching purple tights, a jade green blazer, jade green flats, and brimmed jade green hat with a purple band. Based on her fashion choices I’m pretty sure she was mentally ill.
Everyone knows about the April 15th tax deadline. It is covered on the news and detested by all taxpayers.
But few know about the other deadlines: July 15 for a partnership return that filed for an extension back on April 15, September 15 for a trust, ditto, and October 15 for 1040s that were extended in April.
What all this means is that I am back at work 30 hours/week until the October deadline.
One thing that seems to be different about the October deadline -- and I have only worked the fall busy season a couple of times in the past -- is that people who invested in hedge funds* have now received the 2010 tax information from them. The K-1 from a hedge fund seems to be an entirely different animal than the K-1s I have worked with for the past 18 years -- complex and confusing. ¶988 gains? WTF are those? Ordinary or capital? (For those of you who are interested, they are gains and losses on currency transactions. Whether they are ordinary or capital depends on... something.)
Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying that posting here may be scarce until mid-October. Please control your emotions.
* Also, WTF is a hedge fund, exactly?** As far as I can tell it is similar to a mutual fund except that you cannot get into one unless you have at least several hundred thousand dollars or even millions to invest , depending on the fund. Hedging seems to be optional and not the primary aim of the fund; like many, many other things in Wall Street, nomenclature is designed to confuse, not illuminate nor describe.
** Okay after writing that I consulted The Authority -- Wikipedia -- and found that my impression was correct except that I left out that a hedge fund is "aggressively managed". I think that is a polite way of saying it will do anything to make money, right up to and way beyond any ethical and/or legal limits. I'm not sure a hedge fund manager is even human in the usual sense...
*** Oh, yeah. Yesterday was my birthday. Thanks to all of you on Facebook who sent me greetings!
I got carded last night when I ordered a Negro Modelo with my burrito bowl at Chipotle. x
It was not enough that they looked at my birthday (which was in the first half of the last century), they had to check the restrictions on the license, too. WTF? x
I pointed at my graying hair, but then the manager said they had to check the restrictions. Since when do drivers licenses say anything about whether the holder can have a beer? x
At the office today. So far I have had a 20-minute meeting with my HR person to discuss my schedule, exchanged my laptop for a loaner while they set up a new laptop for me (old one's lease is up), and... and... checked my email about a gazillion times. Because I have nothing else to do. x
All in all, I've done about 2 hours of work ::commence tapping fingersnails on desk:: x
That's a lot different than what it was like on, say, April 1. Or what it will be like on September 10. Or October 10. x
I think I prefer the busy times. x
I knitted a couple rows on The Lace Shawl last night. x
I almost knitted a couple more this morning before I came in to the office. x
Then I reminded myself that there are 533 stitches in each row. And I needed to leave for work in 15 minutes or my parking cost would double. x
No knitting this morning. x
Having lunch with BGFE today. #2 Son is participating in a 24-hour bike race in Milwaukee. x
I sincerely hope the humidity is lower there. It's at least 110% here. x
Horribly uncomfortable, even when the temperature is 72 degrees. x (later) x
Back from lunch with BGFE (need to change that to Best Fiance Ever) today. Date set (6/7/13), dress picked, registry begun, venue auditioning started. x
I am kinda glad I am the mother of the groom. No need to be responsible for the planning; need only to be interested and offer opinion when solicited. Excellent for someone as lazy/low energy as I. x
Two years to organize a mother-of-the-groom dress. Even I can do that. x
My new laptop is ready. Time to go home! (I think I may be the only person actually in the tax department right now anyway. Such are Friday afternoons in summertime...) x
One Saturday morning in early April, certain highly anticipated documents arrived from a particular client, an event which one of the managers had expressed doubt about ever happening.
No one was gonna let him get out of it. By the time he actually danced, at least 20 people were gathered around.
The person who sneaks in front of the camera was going to get the Flip; several had been passed out at the beginning of busy season with the expectation that there would be amusing footage to view at the after-busy-season party. But the battery had died :-( Luckily, I had my camera with me and captured the moment. This video DID make it onto the big screen at the party.
The post-busy-season party this year was held at Target Field, where the Twins play. Not on the field, of course; we were in the Town Ball Tavern. Hors d'oeuvres, hot dogs, mini-burgers, and open bar.
Plus, the highlight every year... the Busy Season Awards!
I won an award one year for "Largest Object Lost During Busy Season". I had come to work bright and early one Saturday morning and parked in my usual ramp, but on a lower level than usual, one lower than the skyway level. When I left work at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, I couldn't find my car.
So I took a cab home and reported it stolen.
On Monday a ramp employee contacted me to say that my car was still in their ramp and was I going to move it soon?
Anyway, this season's awards. We'll skip most of them and move right into everyone's favorite: The Best Busy Season Quotes.
First, the masters of ceremonies.
Why, yes, they ARE young -- middle schoolers, I think.
(The software we use to prep tax returns is referred to as "Global", and when it glitches in a way no one in the office can fix, we have to "call Global".)
This last one is hilarious to accountants. I hope you find it at least mildly amusing.
Morning: senior manager in my office neighborhood brings in a couple dozen freshly-baked (although not by her) chocolate-chip cookies and a half-gallon of cold milk.
Every neighborhood gets a tray of apples, bananas, clementines, and granola bars.
Afternoon: everyone gets a snazzy metal water bottle, with screw-in stopper, attached carabinier, bright blue emblazed with the firm name; shortly thereafter we all get an email message from the partner in charge of the tax department telling us to use them every day, stay hydrated, take care of each other, and listing the symptoms of dehydration.
Evening: dinner catered in from Chipotle, plus cookies and sodas.
Morning: another tray of apples, bananas, clementines, and granola bars.
Also, partner-in-charge-of-tax-department's wife baked 200+ chocolate chip cookies and sent them to the office with him. Every neighborhood gets a tray of cookies.
Evening: dinner catered in from Potbelly Sandwiches, plus humungous oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies and sodas.
Happy Hour, 5-6, although it tends to start a bit early and run a bit later: with assortment of beer, wine, sodas, and nachos.
This is what greeted me in our neighborhood when I strolled in at 9:30 am.
My breakfast: a very weak mimosa and a doughnut. Mmmm...
I'm not much of a drinker, especially at 9:30 am and knowing I will need my wits about me. But I appreciated the sentiment ;-)
A few many years ago we had a new partner in charge of the tax department. He had made a few waves among the staff and wanted to appease them/us. So for one of the Wednesday night dinners (firm provided dinner every Wednesday night during busy season, originally pizza but eventually a more varied menu) he had ribs flown in from his favorite rib joint in the southern city where he came from. Amazing.
Tomorrow, or whenever I get around to posting it, a few photos from the after-busy-season party.