"Meeting with the accountant" is a phrase I never thought I'd use, let alone Sharpie across an Anklysaurus' face in my dinosaur day planner. That's one of the sentence fragments I've frequently filed in the Things That Don't Apply to My Life category, listing it somewhere between "Yes, I'll Be Your Life Coach" and "Ask Me About My Invisible Pores".
My dad has always handled my tax stuff but in Oh Eight the majority of my income1 came from freelancing--save for the $183 and a plantar wart I earned as a part-time toe-handler at The Foot Bucket--and he didn't know how to make the numbers look right. He explained it more eloquently, dropping terms like withholding and deductions but I admittedly wasn't paying attention since he called in the middle of a TLC program about real-life werewolves.
A couple of weeks after our one-sided chat, he mailed me an overstuffed envelope full of menacing pieces of paper, official-looking documents decorated with the state seal, and other things that I probably shouldn't have used as bookmarks. Paperclipped to the top page was a note in his familar left-handed font that said "Go find an accountant", an imperative sentence that sounded almost as ridiculous as one telling me to go find a husband. I know nothing about personal finances, have a closet full of ill-fitting illustrations of my poor money management, and never considered the I.R.S. as anything but R.E.M.'s first record label. It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel...fucked.
After ignoring Dad's envelope for several weeks, moving it only to dust the counter or to extract an errant jellybean that skidded underneath it, I decided I should probably try to find a Taxman. I trashed the Talking Phone Book last month to make room for a Costco-size carton of Cheese-Its so I had to consult the Friend-Of-A-Friend network to get a name, eventually scoring a recommendation from a guy who frequently spots me when I bench press. If I trust him to keep a hundred-plus pounds of metal from splintering my sternum, I'll gladly take his financial advice.
Fast forward to Monday morning when I had to skip an episode of SVU in favor of spending an hour visibly squirming in an office wallpapered with a pattern from Home Depot's narcolepsy collection and learning I couldn't just send the IRS a balloon bouquet and a picture of me turning my pockets inside out. During the sixty minutes I spent smudging The Accountant's glass-topped table, answering questions with a shrug and otherwise making him hate his life, I learned the following things:
- When The Accountant asks you something, you can't say "Pass" and expect him to move to the next question.
- My dog is not a dependent. Neither is an ovarian cyst.
- An original Van Halen 1984 t-shirt is not considered an asset. Snapping your fingers and saying "Oh, I beg to differ, son!" does not change his mind.
- Sleeping with that guy from Radio Shack is not a charitable contribution.
- Your Grateful Dead-patterned Chuck Taylors are not a business expense, regardless of how many times you wore them while you worked.
- When he asks if you have any investments, don't remove the Class of '01 graduation tassel from your rearview, dangle it in his face and say "This is an investment. IN MY FUTURE."
Sigh. My first attempt at doing taxes has been nothing but a reminder of how much money I don't have and how not responsible I am. The Accountant needed proof of my self-employment, things like receipts from Kinko's or love notes from my health insurance--neither of which I have--but I do inexplicably own a purse full of printouts from McDonald's documenting every McGriddle I've ever scarfed.2
"I really need a copy of your 2007 tax return," he said, carefully placing his pen beside the legal pad in front of him.
"And I really need the dinosaurs to come back to life," I told him, putting one hand over his.
He eyed my mitt like it was an expired mouse in the middle of a glue trap. "Flirting with me isn't going to help you", he said, brushing it aside and possibly wondering if he would survive if he launched himself through the window.
"OK, well, do you know who I would need to flirt with?" He stood up, smoothing invisible wrinkles out of his pants. "Because from the right distance, I can look almost attractive, especially if you see me at an intersection through my unwashed car windows...Yesterday someone honked at me."
He sighed, pulling a business card out of an engraved holder on his desk. "Just try to find those receipts, OK?"
I nodded, dropped the card in my purse, and walked out into the lobby, wondering if it was too late to get a McGriddle.
1My use of the word "income" is almost laughable, since I probably could've earned just as much money by checking the coin-return slots on the Coke machine outside the Exxon station.
2I saved the receipts in case a piece of undercooked sausage left me with a raging case of salmonella/gave me that shit Seal has/made me colorblind. That way I'd have proof to either mount a lawsuit or to get my $2.47 back.