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My taxes are finally filed, though I must admit my heart wasn’t in it this year. My brain was checked out, too. After slogging through, I always step away for a few days then go back and comb through every step for mistakes. Usually I fix the one or two errors, wipe my tears with all my money before kissing it good-bye, and swallow my rage with a long muddy hike. This year, I go back to check my work expecting the usual only to discover more than one or two tiny mistakes. I told them I was legally blind? I lived abroad for more than six months of the year? Yes to foreign bank accounts? My life rocks? It was such a mess I deleted the whole thing and started over, doing only one little section at a time.

Baby steps, like the good Dr. Leo Marvin tells Bob in the best movie ever made. What About Bob? Bob is my spirit animal, my Patronus if you want to get all Harry Potter about it.

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As every four years we the people realize how stupid and dangerous allowing the electoral college to continue choosing our president is, every year I allow myself about two minutes to fantasize about living in another country where taxes are like laundry, just another thing that has to get done. It’s not the paying them, it’s the unnecessary complexity (we’re both freelancers), and unfairness of what the peasants pay compared, but I won’t go there. I can’t because it makes me mad and I don’t have a hand puppet to keep me civil.

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Every year I get a little better at managing finances and running my work like a business instead of a series of ongoing, overlapping side projects. This year I even checked out a finance book from the library. I didn’t read it. Baby steps. I did read Rich Dad Poor Dad a few years ago. I learned some things, applied none of them and now forget all of them with the exception of one realization. I’m financially illiterate.

I’m looking for a finance book to read. Most of them want to make me a millionaire and I’m like settle down. Let’s get me a bank account first. Pull the cash out of the mattress, you know. Any books on how to remember which floor boards the piggy banks are under?

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Should the government ever develop an interest in us humans without three vacation homes, I do have one idea. Our library system used to let kids read down their fines. I think it was a summer program, not sure if they still do it, but I always admired the spirit of the idea. Kids with overdue book fines were able to lower their fines with every book they read and logged. Simple. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could volunteer down their taxes? Every X amount of hours volunteered reduces taxes by X percent. Or read down our taxes. Let’s do as Neil deGrasse Tyson says and Make America Smart Again.

There’s so much need in communities – hospitals, senior homes, food programs, learning programs, athletics programs. Help a financial illiterate decipher the treasure map she bought on a postcard in Coney Island. You know there’s old timey ganster money buried in the Catskills? Dutch Schultz hid it right before Lucky Luciano and friends deleted him. True story.

Organizations like New York Cares and Achilles International¬†simplify the process of getting registered and out the door. They guide you from the vague desire to do some volunteer work to the real place of doing it. Lowering taxes in proportion to hours of volunteer work would get so many more people out the door, giving communities a wealth of resources to draw from. Come tax time, regular people might feel a little less forgotten and helpless because they have some agency. They already paid some taxes in the form of time and effort. In fine fine print, say 2-point font, let’s add that volunteering is good for a person’s health, offering a sense of purpose, socializing, physical activities in these days when it’s so tempting to crawl under the force field of the covers. At least build a blanket fort for someone else first.

Bob says it best.

Gimme Gimme Gimme. I need. I need. Gimme. Gimme. Please.

 

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