There is simply no denying it: Tucked in the bag of your local mail carrier is that early harbinger of spring, the W-2. But since I am always trying to make lemonade out of lemons, I make myself focus on the only interesting thing about this tax seasonâ€”the mild suspense over the slim chance of a refund vs having to pay even more money to Uncle Sam. And, of course, speed is of the essence. If a refund is in the picture, I want to get my end of the process done in order to get that money back as quickly as possible.
Sign of the Times?
Now it may be generational, but I still think that a blackberry is a bit of fruit before I remember its high-tech namesake. This handicap of being high-tech challenged (for that's what it really is nowadaysâ€”a handicap) makes the whole exercise of amassing and organizing tax records for my annual return both slower and less accurate. How's that for a nice daily double? I'm slower and less accurate just because I am not up to date with online bill-paying, record-keeping, and tax programs. And I have a feeling I'm not the only one.
In an effort to get up to speed and make my life a little easier, I recently took a tour through the mind-numbing world of tax-planning software programs. I was impressed at how they have evolved and at their potential for easing the work of the tax process, if you are willing to invest the time and effort to master one of them. That is the rub for the avalanching rush of technological advances in general. How do you find the time to keep up? Is learning these wonderful tools worth denying or delaying other well-deserved leisure activities?
Back to the Basics
In my case, after a few false starts, I am back with my number-2 pencil and my box of receipts. Hope does spring eternal though, and maybe this will be the year to get in touch with my ever-elusive technical side, if only to stop the gentle abuse I receive from my family and friends.
For those of you poised at the starting gate of tax-planning season, we offer you this month's cover story on taxes (found on page 11) to help get you off and running. It's packed with insights from a range of tax-planning experts. It may be cold comfort, but remember what my CPA told me a long time ago: The only thing worse than having to pay income taxes is not having to pay income taxes.