Writers and Tax Day
With 24 hours left to file last year’s income taxes, at this point, all I have to do is sign, seal, and deliver. Oh, and write a monstrous check to the IRS, but we’ll save that catastrophic circumstance for a future therapy session. I mean, blog.
Tax Day means the three banker’s boxes and myriad electronic documents containing last year’s receipts and financial paperwork can now safely be confined to an internet cloud and the spidery reaches of our basement crawl space, never to be handled again. (IRS Audit Gods willing)
It’s time to—gulp—turn my attention to three and a half months’ worth of this year’s finances, currently cluttering my real and virtual inboxes as well as my poor stressed right-brained brain.
When at last the receipts make it to my office, they sit in a lovely wicker basket patiently awaiting my post-Tax-Day attention. The beauty of the lovely wicker basket is that you can ignore the heap and stash it in the dryer whenever the cleaning lady comes, until it overflows. Then you have to buy a bigger lovely wicker basket, and remember to save the receipt, because it’s a business expense since it goes on your desk in your office when it’s not in the dryer.
Tomorrow, I will devote at least half an hour to processing this year’s receipts.
This entails reaching for the first one, uncrumpling it, and attempting to discern whether it is, indeed, even a receipt? Or is it one of those printouts you get when you buy a gift card? The ones you can never find when the person for whom you bought it tries to use it and can’t even though you spent twenty five bucks plus a $4.95 activation fee?
Typically, upon determining that I do have a bona fide receipt in hand, I remember that my last birthday seems to have robbed me of the ability to distinguish smallish letters from each other, or from numbers, or from a child’s crayon drawings. I pause to search the house for one of my husband’s many pairs of reading glasses—the cheapo kind you buy in four-packs at CVS—because I’m much too young to need, much less buy, my own reading glasses.
Once I’ve borrowed the glasses, Windexed away fingerprints, pawprints, and—are those coffee spatters?—I return to the receipt, and sometimes find that it wasn’t my eyes after all. Occasionally, the type is already faded with age, or courtesy of some store clerk having shirked register-tape-ink responsibilities, or someone (cat? husband?) at one point spilled something on it (coffee? Husband!) and it’s too smeared to read.
Sometimes, even when the receipt is less blurry than it was before the readers, it’s more confusing. Either it’s itemized with cryptic scan numbers and not words (i.e. ABC123SquareRootOfPi instead of paper clips), or the name of the business is missing at the top, or it’s mysterious—i.e., Flummadiddle’s and not Staples or Starbucks.
Thus, it may require a good amount of detective work to determine that two or three seasons ago, I bought a pen or iced tea at a locally-owned shop during a business trip to…wait, which Portland is that?
At last, the receipt has been deciphered, entered into my records, and dropped into another lovely wicker basket to await eventual transport to a banker’s box and (a year from now) the spidery basement. I reach for the next receipt, and—hey, look, three hours have passed and I haven’t written a word of the novel that’s due tomorrow.
I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking I should hire an assistant to handle these things. Trust me, assistants come with far more complicated financial paperwork. Oh, yeah, and I just wrote that monstrous check to the IRS so I’m too broke to spend on anything pricier than…uh, whatever it is that I bought back in January for eighty-nine cents at an unrecognizable store in an undisclosed location.
New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than seventy novels. Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband and their two children.