Friday, April 15, 2011

Do-It-Yourself-ishness

I was sharing with a client today about how I got into the tax preparation business. I’ve told this story to a lot of people at my desk—


I always did my own taxes, from the time I first started working. At age 18, I read the IRS instructions and dutifully reported my income and withholding and got my first tax refund. At age 19, I discovered in the pages of some fascinating IRS pub that my scholarship could be taxable if I did not spend the entire amount on tuition, fees, books, and required course materials. That semester, I took a skiing class for my phys ed requirement, so I could “use up” my scholarship money on ski equipment (best decision ever!)

The main reason I always did my own taxes, is because that’s what my dad did. Every year, he’d get out that old plug-in calculator, which seemed so high-tech to us kids back in the 70’s. He’d sit at the kitchen table with his papers, and work away at this every April. And for years, I just figured this is what everyone did. I did my part, devoting at least an entire Saturday once a year to delving back into those obscure IRS instructions, trying to figure out if there was any way for me to get a few more bucks back.

I didn’t realize until much later, until I decided to make a part-time career of tax preparation as a kind of antidote to “stay-at-home-mom-itis”, that my dad was not typical. I’ve always known my dad to be the ultimate do-it-yourselfer, but I’ve just taken it for granted. I’ve already paid tribute in this blog to my dad, for passing on to me some of his “time wasting” abilities, so now it’s time to recognize my “DIY” heritage.

Thanks to my dad, I have always believed that any achievement is within the grasp of an average person. And although I haven’t taken “do-it-yourself-ishness” to quite the extremes he does, (yes, I can pay someone to repair an appliance without feeling that blood is being drained from my jugular, and no, I don’t feel compelled to build my own house or barn), I still can appreciate the sense of confidence his example has instilled in me.

I’ve managed my own finances, arranged my own travel, never worried about getting lost, always believed every challenge I faced was surmountable, and every problem has a solution. That anything you need to learn can be found in a book somewhere.  I may not act on it all the time, (even dad is the master of the unfinished project), but deep down, I believe that if I had to, I could do just about anything.

(Well, except maybe eye surgery, because I can’t look at something poking an eye without getting extremely squeamish. But just about anything else.)

Thank You Dad. I have now read more IRS code than a sane human ever should—at least I’m getting paid for it now.

2 comments:

  1. Love this tribute to your dad! It's so very cool and so applicable to my dad as well ... brought a tear to my eye. I always say I was the son my dad never had because so often during projects I was right by his side learning how to use a saw, hammer, nail gun ... whatever. Now I can do just about anything (much to my mom's chagrin, since she still believes certain things are "men's work" .. HATE THAT!!), but I just tell her to blame dad! :) It's one of the reasons I miss him so terribly! Love reading your writing ... you truly have a gift!!!!

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  2. Very nice!

    I also do my own taxes, mainly because the first year I was married I thought we'd better go to a tax preparer since we'd never done a joint return, and somehow we got one who wasn't very good at his job. You'd think going to H&R Block would guarantee some level of proficiency...

    My first clue was the fact that I knew I could input our information MUCH FASTER than the dude. Then, even though I'd heard very specifically about an Injured Spouse form, he'd never heard about it so told us it didn't exist. The worst part, though, was that they convinced us to pay their fee with a credit card with the promise that we would be able to pay it off as soon as we got our refund. Then of course our entire refund went to John's ex for child support arrears (thus the importance of the Injured Spouse form).

    So now I do our taxes myself (with TurboTax)!

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