Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Confessional of Preparing Taxes

Across the U.S., many are working on taxes, if we haven't already.  I did our taxes a few weeks ago, which came out how I expected.  The software warned me that I'm at a high risk for audit because in my work as a writer, I earned significantly less than last year.  Well, I can't fix that, although it's startling to see it spelled out with specific numbers.  I was pleased with the tax credit we got for purchasing solar panels, and I don't expect that credit to last much longer, so I'm glad we were able to do that.  While we are not off the grid, we are closer to living out our values.

Tax time is a great time for that kind of assessment.  Are we living out our values?

I've thought about our taxes as a snapshot of modern life.  If I had been itemizing these writerly expenses a decade or two ago, I'd have more postage expenses to deduct.  Now I do most of my submitting online--and thus, my office supply tally is less than it would have been in previous decades too.

I've thought about our taxes as milestones in other ways too.  Last year was one of the first years that we didn't have several properties to think about.  That makes me sound wealthy, doesn't it?  No, just one of many who had properties they couldn't unload during the downturn. 

I'm always interested to tally up our charitable giving.  I want to believe that I'm giving away 10% of my income--and we are, as a household.  Some years it's 10% of take home pay, some years it's the gross, and usually, it's more than 10%.

Tax time is a good time to do this kind of assessment.  I go out with writers for a variety of lunches and coffees.  I find it wonderfully supportive.  But when I total all the receipts?  I still think it's worth it, but every year, I'm surprised that I've spent as much as I have.

I think about self-care in all sorts of ways, but I'm not sure I'm protecting future Kristin enough.  I could save more for retirement.  When I'm a little old lady, will I wish that I had spent a bit less on lunches out and wine at the end of the day?

I often talk about what I can and can't afford, and tax time spells it out starkly.  It's good to know how we're spending our money, not just how we think we are.  We can ask ourselves about our priorities.  Maybe it's time for some changes.

I think of the ancient spiritual practice of confession, which most churches practice on a corporate level, if at all.  Tax time is a modern take on that ancient practice.  We can see where we've fallen short.  We can ask for forgiveness--and for the ability to make a change.

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