By Tom Purcell
I used to love the first weekend of autumn. Now I loathe it.
Maybe I better explain.
I used to wait until the nicest week in spring to organize my taxes, but now I wait until the nicest week in autumn.
Autumn officially begins this Friday, Sept. 23, which is when I will begin the agonizing process of digging through my big box of income statements and expense receipts from 2021.
I organized the mess of paper somewhat in the spring, so that my CPA could file an extension.
But the only thing that did was extend the ordeal of sorting through the box to find every tax deduction that is due me.
I still had to pay any 2021 income taxes I owed by April 18 or face penalties "that can reach up to 25% of the total unpaid taxes, with some exceptions," says the Wall Street Journal.
Now my tax return for 2021 must be filed by Oct. 17 or steep penalties could kick in.
The Journal says 19 million taxpayers asked the IRS for more time to file this year -- a record number.
"A variety of factors is to blame beyond just procrastination, tax preparers say: shifting due dates, Covid-related tax law changes, late forms, the IRS backlog and taxpayer burnout," reports the Journal.
Taxpayer burnout? I've been suffering that since I filed my first adult return.
Now that I have more than one source of income -- writer, communications work, rental properties, real estate sales, etc. -- I have to provide detailed reports to my CPA on what revenue comes in and what goes out for expenses.
The resulting return is many pages long. There would be fewer felons if they knew their punishment would be to read it.
I wonder whatever happened to all those brave reform ideas to make income taxes fairer or flatter or so simple to file you could complete them in minutes with a single piece of paper and an unsharpened pencil.
2017 was the last time the IRS changed its laws to allegedly help businesses with things like deductions, depreciation, expensing and tax credits.
You might be able to understand the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act-- if you're an accountant --but not me.
To make filing my taxes easier for me my CPA set up a Quicken account so I can record in real time every check that comes in and every expense that goes out.
But I don't use that convenient tool as I should.
That's why late this Friday afternoon I'll get out my big box of receipts, organize them into expense folders, load the details into the Quicken app and then pray I don't owe more tax than I already paid in April.
The weather will be beautiful.
Autumn will have arrived in all its glory. Friends will be sitting around bonfires and sipping hot apple cider during the crisp gorgeous evenings.
But I cannot join them. I cannot talk on the phone, watch television or even listen to lively music.
All I'll be able to do is focus intensely on my receipts, so my CPA can file my tax return by Oct. 17.
So enjoy your hot toddies, my friends who didn't file an extension this year.
But if you don't hear from me by next Wednesday, please make sure I wasn't crushed to death under my big box of receipts.
Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]