Friday, April 21, 2017

Life's a Mixed Bag, Ain't It?

Today I received two deliveries. The first delivery was a piece of mail from the IRS that said I owed $12,000 for my 2015 federal income taxes. Based on my income (or the general lack thereof), I suspected this had to be an error, a mistake compounded on on top of another mistake. Nonetheless, I pooped my metaphorical pants.

After chewing off some fingernails and stress-chugging my coffee, I dug through a couple of adequately maintained file drawers to retrieve my tax paperwork: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010...can you see where this is going? Every year present and accounted for, except 2015. More metaphorical pooping. But okay, I keep electronic records, too.

I booted up my laptop and opened my "Taxes" folder. And there it was, right there where I left it —my trusty 2015 Federal Income Tax .pdf file. Thanks, TurboTax. I reviewed my 1040 form, did a bit of online research, and chomped on my remaining fingernails. Son-of-a-bitch, I had, indeed, made a reporting error related to some (not shady, I swear) investment decisions in late 2015. Next, I called the Merrill Lynch 800 number and spoke to my finance guy, the recent college grad who answered the phone at the call center. After a few minutes of blame avoidance, he said something like, "It's probably okay. But you know, check with your tax guy because that's not my expertise." So I called my tax guy. "Dad," I said, "you aren't going to believe this shit."

My dad, who was at lunch with my mom, empathized with my frustration and angst, and patiently listened to the full story. He asked all the right questions and reassured me. Now I won't bore you with more minutiae about my 2015 tax filing, but suffice it to say, my dad ultimately agreed with the Merrill Lynch guy, and then said something like, "It's probably okay. But you should call the IRS." So, I did.

I dialed the number provided on IRS Notice CP2000 and, not surprisingly, encountered a hellish phone tree. I muttered under my breath and anger-mashed buttons as I navigated my way through a maze of insufficient choices, until at last, I found Bob. His voice was a summer breeze, warm and pleasant, and he brimmed with competence. I explained my situation to Bob who quickly grasped the nuance of each detail. "It's okay," he said. "Just send us that 1099-B and we'll re-calculate. Capital loss, something, something, something. You'll get a check for $300-400 in a few weeks from the IRS."

I'll get a check...I'll get a check...I'll...get...a...check. The words swirled in my head like a feather, then floated to a quiet gentle rest in my consciousness. "Bob,"I said, "I think I love you."

It was after noon and I had only just gotten off the phone with Bob when the doorbell rang. Another delivery. I ran to the closet and snatched a pair of jeans from a clothes hanger (don't judge...I was "working"). I pulled on the jeans and raced to the front door. No one was there, but a medium-sized padded envelope had been left on the mat. I remembered what day it was. My heart raced.

You've likely figured it out by now, probably saw it coming just like that missing 2015 tax file. I carried the package inside, placed it on the kitchen counter, and stared at it. This moment had been a long time in the making, and I considered waiting for someone else to come home before I opened the package. After all, getting published is a group effort. But writing is lonely work. I gently unsealed the envelope, slid out the contents, and held in my hand for the first time ever, a printed copy of my book.

Solid Ground is available in print and ebook 
at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers. 

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