Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Paid Up

I paid my taxes this week.

This was a rather painful process here in 2015, though for mostly happy reasons.  As a chronic sufferer of adjunctivitis, my income is rather variable – sometimes I get a class or two, sometimes I don’t get anything, once in a while I get three, and now and then I stumble across the holy grail of adjunct life: a full-time semester.  What is most important about that for present purposes is that in the commitment-free zone that is modern academia I often don’t know what my course load will be until weeks – or even days – before the semester begins.  I’ve been offered courses on as little as 36 hours notice, and had courses taken away from me on 9 hours notice.

So it’s kind of a guessing game, really.

Because of this, I generally aim for the middle and set my tax withholdings at a level that is appropriate for a part-time adjunct.  Most of the time this works out fine.  Come April there is usually either a small amount coming back to me or a small amount I have to send along to the various tax-gathering political bodies that have a claim on me, and we all move on with our lives.

I don’t like paying taxes.  But I do like roads, fire protection, a functional social safety net, schools, mail service, parks, and all of the other things that make up a civilized society so, unlike many catastrophically short-sighted and loud-mouthed fellow citizens here in this amnesiac republic, I pay them anyway without too much complaining.  Taxes are the price you pay for civilization.  Remember that when you are confronted by someone who thinks taxes are evil, and consider carefully what this says about their character.

On the plus side, my academic career has been going quite well over the last few semesters.  I had three classes last spring, one over the summer, and, thanks to a colleague’s promotion into Administratia at the end of the summer, I ended up full time in the fall, something I managed to pull off despite also teaching another class for a different university that I had signed up for prior to my colleague's promotion and couldn’t in good conscience back out of at the last minute.  So it was a lucrative year by my admittedly sparse standards.

Which of course means that the withholdings were all out of whack. 

I never did think to make any changes in those numbers and therefore the various taxing bodies I report to didn’t take out enough during the year, and since my biggest deductions only work at the state level I ended up having to write the IRS in particular a rather dismally large check to make up the difference.  And suddenly the nice little balance in the checking account got reduced to a rather more normal state of affairs, which made a certain amount of unhappy sense in hindsight.

Given that the prospects of my remaining full time are good at least through Christmas – and possibly into next spring if all goes well and if we still have a university system to hold classes at in this state (not a guarantee in the current political climate, but the one advantage to being utterly powerless is that it frees you up for senseless optimism now and again) – I will need to adjust a few things.  It's kind of a nice problem to have in this economy.

So paperwork will be filed.

In the meantime, I rest secure in the notion that I have paid my dues toward a civilized society for the year, and I look forward to trotting out my status as a taxpayer whenever I wish to argue with any authority figure telling me to do something of which I disapprove.

They love it when you do that.


Tom said...

Ahh, taxes. Civilization toll. I had a streak of several years where I didn't file. Taxes were taken out, but I never filed the IRS paperwork. Turns out if you don't owe, you can do this for up to 4 years, then at the last minute file 4 years worth of forms, and get bunches of bucks back. If you don't owe. Because that of course means that the IRS has much more of your money than they think is "theirs." I did this once, successfully. I did it a second time, and didn't get the oldest forms in on time. Lost a few thousand dollars. Dumb, I've known to be it. Since then it's been on time, usually a month or even 2 early.

This year I waited, since I had a change of address in the middle of February, and wanted to make sure I got all the forms possibly sent to the old address and forwarded to the new address. But the taxes were filed about a week early. I'm looking forward to the refunds (Fed and Mass State) hitting my account shortly. But this year I also retired. I hope to start drawing Social Security soon, and maybe get some income from my retirement account. But withholding is now a thing of the past. Next year I may have to learn a whole new tax process. I know I'll only have Mass State taxes for 2 months, then no more State tax filing. Minimal income and no withholding. I wonder...

David said...

I'm always impressed with how complicated the whole thing is.

I generally file sometime in April or late March because there are basically only two things that will result: 1) I will owe money, in which case why rush, or 2) I will receive money, which for someone on an academic-year pay schedule means I need to put it aside for the summer, so why rush.

But I always file on time. Remember: it wasn't Elliot Ness that got Al Capone.

Good luck with all those new filing statuses!


Unknown said...

If you earn more than five grand, and you live abroad, you have to pay an accountant to file (even if you owe nothing)because the forms are too complicated even for a well-educated, intelligent person to file. Not my situation but still!