Well, yesterday was certainly a day of mixed messages.
Remember citizen steve? When I chirpily told you about rendering unto the Mexican Caesar and related a quaint anecdote about my dad. "My dad once told me: 'It
is an honor to pay taxes. And, then, you need to watch those shifty
politicians like a hawk to make certain they don't squander your
money.' He was a realist."
I am not certain how much I feel like a realist right now. "Cranky" may be the word.
While my brother was out on a computer call, I sat down to complete my federal tax returns for this past year. Filling out the forms is no longer the chore it once was -- when dads locked themselves in the den for hours.
I have been using TurboTax for years. Combined with my rather neurotic record-keeping in Quicken, completing the form portion of the ritual is now a lark.
Well, maybe not a lark. But it is simple.
I was fully prepared for the rather staggering figure that popped up as the amount the treasury expects me to voluntarily pay for the surcharge of being an American citizen. But being prepared for bad news does not sweeten the adjective.
$13,000 -- and change. That, of course, is in addition to the much larger amount that was properly withheld during the year. ("Withheld" is such a gentle word for what it truly represents.)
That amount is certainly not like being told you have one month to live. These things must be put into perspective.
I put myself in this tax pickle by cashing out a deferred income account all in one big gulp -- to assist in the purchase of the house with no name. Here is the sad news. I had federal tax withheld when I withdrew the amount. But, as Harvey Fierstein said -- not enough.
And, for the honor of using my own money for my own purposes, I also owe penalties and interest -- in addition to being bumped back into the land of estimated tax payments. I tried the "but I am only a poor pensioner trying to make his way in a confusing world." TurboTax was not impressed.
To stop the penalty clock running, I decided to pay the full bill today. I know. I know. I am losing interest on what I do not need to pay until 15 April. My answer? What interest?
Here is where I differ from my father's tax philosophy. I long ago parted with the federal government's philosophy on spending. That probably happened somewhere in the early days of the First World War when the Wilson administration bayoneted the notion of a limited federal government in the trenches of Verdun.
I now estimate that around 90% of the federal budget is spent on things I do not believe it should. Inadvertently, I have probably just offered additional proof of Sturgeon's Law.
At least, I am done with my federal tax dilemma this year. My money is no longer mine -- and I will leave it to others to spin arguments for its moral application.
It is one less thing I have to accomplish on this trip north. But several other major projects loom before I return to my courtyard in Barra de Navidad. Where the living is easy and the taxes are easier.