Thursday, April 14, 2005

Taxes Made Easy

For almost ten years, we have paid a local accountant, Marie Kirchberger, to prepare our taxes. We pay in the hundreds of the dollars, but it's easily the best money we've ever spent. Every year around February, all we do is send her an envelope full of W-2s, 1099s, and other tax papers. By the end of March, she sends us an envelope containing completed federal and state tax forms. We don't even meet with her anymore, although we did those first few years. We correspond by phone and e-mail.

I used to feel that I had to do my own taxes. The first few tax seasons after college, I spent hours reading those big tax preparation guides. My eyes would always glaze over: standard deductions, alternative minimum tax, interest from savings versus investments. Figuring out these terms, and then figuring out the appropriate numbers for these terms always put me in an agitated state.

Jenn and I decided to get an accountant the first year after we moved into our house (1997). We didn't want to mess up our mortgage deductions. We went to Marie on a referral, and we've been with her ever since. And even though we've become more comfortable figuring out our own deductions, we're even more comfortable having her prepare the papers.

The crux of the matter is the the time value of money (or in this case, the money value of time). I guess I could buy tax preparation software, fire it up, enter the numbers, double check the figures, and then print out the forms (or file it electronically), but how many hours is that? How many moments will I have second-guessing myself? And isn't Project Greenlight on television tonight?

The amount of time I spent thinking about my taxes this year is about an hour. Certainly not more than an hour. Most of it was spent collecting stray tax papers (we get more organized about it every year) and tallying up checks we've made to charities.

On the eve of the nation's filing date, taxes are the furthest thing from my mind (except, of course, for this BLOG entry). Our forms were sent almost a month ago. I'm grateful for Marie, and that I can afford her fees. It's totally worth it. Thanks, Marie!

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