Apr 15, 2008

This Moron Got His Taxes Done Early This Year

I got my taxes done very early this year. About 22 hours early, in fact, about 2 a.m. this morning, the morning of April 15th. I can't remember the last time I had my taxes done so soon.

"Early" is a relative term in my house. To me, getting the taxes done early means that I didn't have to file an extension, and that my return was filed before midnight on April 15th. For example, a couple of years ago, I filed my taxes electronically and the time stamp on my filing was April 15th, 11:57 p.m. As I see it, my taxes were done 3 minutes early.

My wife doesn't see it that way. For her, "early" would mean filing the return on February 1, the same day that the last 1099 statement arrives in the mail. We have no agreement on either the meaning of this term "early," or on the appropriate level of urgency that ought to be sensed by the legal "head of household" when it comes to tax season. Tension mounts. Admittedly, my level of stress increases greatly as the Ides of April approaches; I know she's more right than I am.

The closer we get to April 15th, this stress I feel weighs heavily. By the 14th, my cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis happening in my personality. But this didn't happen this year, I got done early. One of my co-workers noted that he was surprised to see me in the office today, looking well. Not as surprised as I am. Or my wife for that matter.

However, I have to say that I am a bit sad that I will be missing one of the most enjoyable rituals and cultural phenomenons that happens between 11-12 p.m. each April 15th at a city's main post office. I've participated a few times before. This is an annual gathering of people with similar definitions of the word "early." This congregation of the pale and stressed-out arrives under pressure and strain, but leaves rejuvenated and hopeful. These are the people who know that the post office remains open until midnight, just for them, on this one special day.

You see, its not just a few people who are there to run in and drop off their returns in time for the April 15 postmark. Its thousands and thousands of people arriving all evening long. The post office in fact will take over an entire block just to handle the crowds. If you have your item stamped already, you don't even need to leave your car. Here in San Diego, for example, Postal employees have set up booths in every lane of Midway Blvd. going both ways to accommodate the streams of traffic. Its bigger than any sporting event. Some smart entrepreneurs are even selling bottled water, hot dogs, glow sticks, you name it. It's federally fun and festive!

This year, I am going to miss the camaraderie, the feeling of connectedness with my fellow early tax filers. If you've never seen this, you should go and just observe. Or sell pizza slices or something. It's truly and American experience.

Of course, the truth is, I know I should get my taxes done sooner. And I have far too much experience with just giving up and going down to the post office at midnight to mail off the Tax Extension form so that I can wait until midnight on October 15th to finish up.

These days, you can get an automatic six month extension for any reason, no questions asked (you still have to pay whatever you guess you might eventually owe on April 15th or suffer penalties and interest.) A few years ago, however, you would only get an automatic four month extension. If you wanted an additional two months, you had to send in another form by August 15th. On that form, you were required to give a good reason why you can't file your return. The IRS clearly stated that "I didn't get around to it" was not acceptable and would not qualify you for this extension, and your returns would be deemed officially "late."

One year, on August 15th, I didn't get around to it. What could I write in that blank?

Reason for requesting an additional two month extension:

I had nothing legitimate to write. So I wrote:

Reason for requesting an additional two month extension:
"I am a moron, and have been unable to complete my return."

The IRS granted my request for the extension. No penalties.

I suppose this taxpayer is now legally considered to be a "moron." I also think some agent at the IRS has my Extension form on the wall of his cubicle just for fun.

Hope you get your taxes done early this year!


Apr 7, 2008

Me and Chuck, George and Abraham

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet and introduce Charlton Heston to a crowd of political donors who paid to hear from him and have some fancy hors d'oeuvres. During that time of my life, I had the opportunity to meet many people of his cultural stature, but he was certainly one of the most interesting and the most genuine of those I met during that time. His death this weekend reminds me of something I thought about after that experience.

Chuck and me. I seem to look much older in this pre-contact lens picture.

After meeting him, I called my parents to let them know I had gotten to spend some time with one of their movie star heroes. They were quite tickled about this, being that Chuck Heston really was a huge star in their youth, and always remained a huge star. He was of course Moses, Ben Hur, and of course, who can forget his stirring portrayal of George Taylor.

How odd it must have been for them to consider that their kid would one day meet someone who was a big deal to them in their childhood. At least, this concept seemed interesting to me at the time. This idea, that generations can interact with the same historical figures at different times and with different meanings fascinates me. I picture my mom and dad as teenagers in theaters watching Ben Hur, not even considering that they would have a son who would later chat with the movie's actor about that chariot scene that must have been incredibly thrilling for them. Small world. I love connections like that. Be fascinated and keep reading.

It occurred to me that while sometimes history seems to be quite distant, it really isn't as far off as we think. For example, consider this interesting observation. It is possible that a person could have personally known Abraham Lincoln and later in that person's life, they could have personally known George W. Bush. Its true. Do the math. Perhaps even more profound, someone as a young boy could have personally known Thomas Jefferson, and as an old man, could have also personally known Ronald Reagan. I think that person might in fact be Bob Dole.

I wonder if I will have a kid who gets to meet Harrison Ford. I'm quite certain my kids will know who Han Solo and Indiana Jones are. I asked Heston about the Chariot race. He told me he was nervous about it until the race choreographer assured him that he would definitely win. I hope my kids ask Ford about being dragged from the back of a truck only holding on to that whip.

"I don't seem to have a 20th Century face." - Charlton Heston, 1924 - 2008.