Man. I had big plans for my imaginary money.
Every year around this time, since college I would say, I’ve filed taxes, and whether it was an extra $200 to spend on crap, or $1,000 to save…and spend…I’ve always received an income tax return to get giddy about and proudly done the taxes on my own. But this year was a big ‘ol FAIL. Though I had made plans in my head to buy everything from new eyeglasses to a trendy bicycle for the summer with the income tax return I was assuming would come my way after a particularly tough year, that money is going to go the OTHER way on April 15. Come to find out that my year of big moves and switching and ditching jobs has come back to bite me in the butt, and now I owe both the states I live(d) in, and the federal government. Though I was very disappointed by this, I’ve learned a few things that will probably help others too, and make tax season of next year a much more joyous occasion–as it should be (you know, joyous when YOU get your check).
Keep Track of EVERYTHING. Seriously, everything.
In the midst of moving from Chicago to NYC, I gave up piles of clothing to Goodwill, and spent a hefty amount on gas and other moving expenses, but when it was time to start claiming deductions, I had none of the receipts for these things in my possession. FAIL. I’m one of those people who shreds receipts or gets rid of them ASAP, but after watching the chick at H&R Block give me the sad/boo boo face because I couldn’t prove I spent money on a laptop for freelancing purposes, I won’t make that same mistake twice. Everything counts. Keep it and throw it in the face of the government next year, folks.
Be Careful Doing Freelance Work
So I wrote a few stories for a few months for a few people. No big deal, right? Psych. The 1099 I received played a huge part in the fact that I owed the government taxes, because none were taken out for these services. I’m not saying don’t ever freelance, but just be mindful of the fact that this “self-employment” might come back to kick you in the butt, and can even require more complex tax programs and rack on extra charges when you’re trying to navigate Turbo Tax and more.
Get Your Taxes Done Early if You Need Help
I’m not going to lie, the amount of money I paid to get all my taxes done (two states and federal) was way more than I would have liked or even thought it would be. If you know you need to hit up the local H&R Block or other local tax service places, try and get help early so you can take advantage of deals and bargains for early birds. I would also encourage hustling your friends or family members who have tax experience to help you out for the low low if you know your tax situation is a bit more complex than usual.
Get Your W-4 In Order
After being told I owed money instead of being owed money, I was instructed to check with my employer and make sure my W-4 was up-to-date and that my number of dependents was correct. When filling out a 800-page packet the first day at your job, it’s probably overwhelming and you might not even remember what the hell you put for dependents. So to be on the safe side, make sure everything is right and in order so you don’t get a big surprise when you’re finishing up your income tax returns next year. If you know you don’t want much being taken out of your check during the year, then you probably won’t trip when you have to pay folks back, but if you weren’t really trying to duck and dodge your tax responsibilities, then this can be a nightmare-ish mistake.
Hey, In the End, Count Your Blessings
I could be really enraged as I was the minute I saw all those numbers written in red, but it was a Sunday and I had just come from church. In situations such as this one, what made me feel better was knowing that I was still a very lucky and blessed individual. If I really need some money, it will find its way in my account somehow (heeeeeey Mom…), so there was no reason to necessarily go postal. I still have a roof over my head and food in my stomach so hey…the government can have their funky money. For now.
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