Taxes Done

One of my relatives once claimed to work backwards, deciding what he wanted his refund to be then entering numbers that made that happen. I don’t have the stomach for that.

When I got out of bed Sunday Helaine already had the minutiae of our previous financial year on the kitchen table. Kitchen tables are where the best tax work is done.

For the past few years we’ve done ours using the online TurboTax website. Last year was problematic, but we were back for more and it was back to reasonably painless. In fact TurboTaxes software seems to be friendlier and easier.

If you haven’t done your taxes online one of the big advantages is it remembers what you did last year. It knew to fill in and in some cases go online to retrieve crucial data. Maybe I should feel insecure knowing all this stuff is online, but I don’t.

Before Helaine and I got together there was a period where I “forgot” to do my taxes. I mentioned this to an accountant I met at a party and within a week he had me in his office paying my penalties and squaring things. The funny thing is, two of the three years I was due a refund! There is no penalty when you shoot yourself in the foot financially. It should be called the insult to injury exclusion.

The tax form avoidance was when I was on my own and operating in the “no attention to detail” mode. I plead the Michael Phelps defense.

Helaine and I don’t cheat on our taxes. With over 98% of my income coming as an employee there aren’t many ways to cheat even if I wanted to. I’m mentioning this because as you finish your return a screen comes up comparing you to others in a similar tax bracket. I’m missing something or a lot of other people are being very creative–very. We are way down on the deduction side. Bernie Madoff will become B’nai Brith Man of the Year before we’re audited.

One of my relatives once claimed to work backwards, deciding what he wanted his refund to be then entering numbers that made that happen. I don’t have the stomach for that.

Does this put me on the new short list to serve in the Obama administration?

Why does TurboTax charge more for the Connecticut return than the federal? It’s just taking the same numbers and re-plugging them. The return itself is much less complex. The simple answer is, it does it because it can. Most folks look at the federal price only. There’s no price competition at the state level.

Our two refunds will each be about 1% of my income. That’s not an insubstantial amount. However, all it means is I overpay on a weekly basis. I do that on purpose, though it’s considered foolish. There is some solace in knowing you won’t… or shouldn’t owe.

Before I went to bed the feds had already accepted our return. Today Connecticut. The money should be in our account in a day or two.

The Modern Diagnosis

Steffie had a pretty bad allergic reaction this weekend. It wasn’t fun for her, or for us. Your child can grow up – but she’s still your child.

As the week went on, the allergic reaction went away. That’s good.

Our family physician said Steffie should see an allergist. I called the to make an appointment with the allergist I see… or anyone in his practice. June – the earliest available appointment is June!

Popular folks these allergists.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I sent my allergist an email, with a photo of Steffie taken while she was in the midst of the reaction. He took a look and wrote back.

His response suggested what we were already doing was right, and it wouldn’t be necessary to see him until or unless there were more problems.

I’m glad he wrote back, but this is a hell of an imposition on my part, isn’t it? Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the new era and have our insurance companies (or, shudder, me the patient) pay for this service.

As far as I can tell, when my internist or allergist gives me advice from his keyboard, he’s doing this out of the goodness of his heart – literally giving away the work he usually charges for.

My guess is, in some cases, Internet consultation is a good thing. From an insurance standpoint, isn’t this a chance to purchase a more cost effective service for their customers? Shouldn’t the physician be compensated to encourage this?

I am not a doctor (nor do I play one on television&#185). I’m sure those I know will tell me if I’m off base here.

&#185 – That line, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on television,” was actually used in a TV commercial about 40 years ago.

Blogger’s addendum: And, my primary physician did respond:

If there were something that were more than 100%, I’d agree with you that much. Does the accountant or lawyer or guy at the gas pump EVER give it away for free? I think that our ethic and culture is different, though. Medicine is rightly called a “caring profession.” and when we care, we really do care. So we do it, without listening for the sound of the cash register ringing.

And don’t hold your breath waiting to hear that Aetna or Anthem or, God forbid, Medicare will ever pay me or your allergist for giving you email or even telephone advice. Not in my lifetime, and I plan to torture all of you for many years to come.

Hitch – The Movie

I took Helaine on a date this afternoon. The idea was a romantic movie… I know, 3:30 PM, how romantic could it be?

We headed down to North Haven to see “Hitch,” the new movie with Will Smith and Kevin James. More on that in a minute.

I wanted coffee, but I felt it would be uncool to bring a container of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (my favorite) into the theater – plus, I had seen coffee there before.

Bzzzz. Wrong! No coffee.

Instead, I ended up paying $4 for a large Diet Pepsi. $4! A 2-liter bottle costs 99&#162.

I admit it. I am the fool here. I’m the one who paid the $4… and didn’t get my coffee to boot.

On the other hand, though movie tickets now cost $9.50, we got ours for $6. This is one of those strange, hidden benefits of being a AAA member. Yes, you have to buy them in advance, but they don’t go bad (or if they do, they do it slowly enough that it’s never been a problem).

The newspaper said the movie was scheduled to start at 3:30. Not quite. Between a few commercials, promos and coming attractions, it didn’t get starting until sometime after 3:45 PM.

Hitch is the story of Will Smith, a relationship counselor. He takes hapless schlemiels, like I was when I was single, and gives them the advice necessary to meet the woman of their dreams.

His clients are sweet and earnest, though not classic catches. He is principled – the unexpected attribute for someone in that line of work, and the pivotal element creating the emotional tension that carries the movie.

Ask me what Will Smith does for a living? He is charming for a living. Sure, he acts… but he’s always acting as Will Smith being charming. There is a very good living doing that – obviously. And, quite honestly, it is a role I enjoy seeing.

His main pupil through the film is Kevin James, an accountant in love with a beautiful heiress who is a client of his firm. He lives a life where they are physically near each other, but she never see him.

In this movie, Kevin James was my surprise. I know he’s a comedian, has a successful sitcom (which I’ve never watched), and does a pretty good Jackie Gleason. He was very good.

Kevin James strongest point, was he never overwhelmed the character he played. It was never over the top. This was a nice guy, a good guy, not a beautiful guy.

His restrained physical comedy combined with his timing and interplay with Will Smith are what made the movie for me.

Smith and James love interests, Eva Mendes and Amber Valletta, are pretty and appropriate, but it’s the two guys and New York City that carry the weight here. New York is an integral part of the story and I am glad to see it playing itself instead of seeing Toronto or Vancouver as some wimpy New York wannabe.

The city was portrayed with the same kind of loving charm that Woody Allen brought to Annie Hall and Manhattan.

Even at 4:30 in the afternoon, this was a great date movie. We both loved it. It will be huge at the box office.

Blogger’s note – This is entry 1,000 in my blog. It is a milestone I never thought about… never expected. Thanks again for stopping by to read my words and thoughts.