I’m going to finish my taxes today. I got them 1/4-way done yesterday — all my own income and business expenses have been tallied up and accounted for. Now I need to pull in my spouse’s numbers, and that will be a bigger task, since they are self-employed, and they have a lot going on.
Fortunately, this year, we did the smart thing and split up the work, so I only did the bank-numbers-collecting, and the tax software forms-filling-out, and they took care of tallying up all the checks and the items that I couldn’t make sense of. So, it actually worked out well. And they produced two pieces of paper that have neat calculations on them, rather than 10 sheets of paper with a thousand individual items listed.
It’s progress — real progress. And it tells me my spouse is actually doing much better, neurologically, than they’ve been in a number of years.
In past years, I explained what I needed, and they didn’t understand. They just didn’t get it. No matter how I phrased it, no matter how many times I repeated myself, they just didn’t get what I needed, and they went ahead and did what they wanted to do, anyway… which made my life extremely difficult at this time of year.
Now they’ve gotten their system down, and they did it in the space of a day, rather than dragging it out for weeks on end. That’s huge progress, too. They’re more focused, more cognitively streamlined, more motivated.
And it’s all good.
So, today I finish off the work. I do this every year, so now it’s very familiar to me. And that’s a great thing, because each year, I get all tangled up in anxiety about going through this process, and I become convinced that I won’t understand it, or I’ll get confused, or I’ll get turned around. Doing my taxes used to be a fairly straightforward thing, before I had several businesses to account for. Once upon a time, I could do my taxes in the space of a few hours in the afternoon. But when both my spouse and I got our businesses going, things got very complicated — it would take me weeks to get it all done. And ironically, our businesses really took off and got way more complex during the early years of my TBI recovery — after 2004.
Doing taxes turned into a huge undertaking. I would collect all the data and sort it and categorize it and compile it into several different spreadsheets, and then sort it again. I’d have to re-assign numbers that I did wrong, because they really belonged with one business, not the other. And I sometimes wasn’t sure if I’d done it all correctly, which was a massive source of stress for me.
This year has been different, however.
As it turns out, my own thinking is much, much clearer now than in the past. I got a first inkling with that, when I was exporting all my banking information to sort and plug in. I’ve always been extremely thorough, sorting and categorizing everything, from start to finish, following dates. I got so caught up in it, in fact, that I had intended to collect all the numbers on a quarterly basis and sort through them, so that at tax time, I could just plug them in.
Of course, that never happened. I did it last April, after I’d finished my 2014 taxes, and just the exercise of sorting the numbers of three different bank accounts in multiple formats was too much for me. Hundreds and hundreds of transactions, large and small. How could I keep up with it?
Answer: I couldn’t.
So, I abandoned the exercise, and I was feeling bad about myself, when I went back to my 2015 taxes directory on my computer and saw the failed attempt from last year.Then, it occurred to me yesterday, that that exercise was actually a total waste of time. I didn’t have to collect and sort every single transaction. I didn’t have to categorize every trip to the grocery store, barber, and fast food joint. I could just cut them all out, up front, and only categorize the numbers that actually applied to our businesses.
It seems so simple now, but this was an epiphany for me. Rather than biting off a massive chunk of work, I could work with only the most necessary pieces, and concentrate on them — and pretty much disregard everything else.
So, I did that yesterday evening, and what used to take me days, took me a couple of hours, max. And that’s a good thing, indeed.
I should be able to get our taxes all squared away in a matter of hours, really. And that’s fantastic. Because I can keep doing this new and improved approach each year. The progress continues. Even if it’s the sort of thing that should have been totally obvious to me… it wasn’t. I got so mired in the details, I couldn’t see the easy way of doing things.
Now I can see it, though. I’ll have to make a note for myself to do this again next year.