Finances have always given me the jitters, so fortunately Katja has offered to take care of our taxes over the years. When we first came to Cincinnati, she got the name of the city’s most prestigious law firm and decided we would give our business to them. I think their clientele is mostly CEO’s and top-level executives from Procter & Gamble, Kroger, and First National Bank, along with us. She got assigned to a young lawyer named Teddy N., and they’ve developed a firm friendship after decades of annual get-togethers. This year Katja was pleased because she’d gotten all the requisite forms and documents prepared well in advance, putting them all together in a box of papers in our foyer. Needless to say, when she went to get them last week and found them missing from the box, she went into a tizzy.
We ransacked the house for two straight days. We’ve never had an actual filing system, preferring to stack papers randomly in large colored boxes with lids. We went through all the boxes we could find in every room and closet in the house, sorting through tax returns and bank statements from the 1990’s, old pictures by our son J from grade school, out-of-date pizza coupons, etc. Katja went through each box first, and then I did them all over again. Then we looked in the kitchen drawers and cabinets, the pantry, the bed linen cupboard, the box of dog toys, the silverware drawer, the floor of the elevator, behind the TV, the bureau dresser, underneath the bed, in the liquor cabinet, the book shelves, and every other place we could think of. Katja searched the car, and I did too. I went through the trashmasher and the recycling bin and did find some valuable possessions to rescue, but not the tax forms. We didn’t bother to check our over-flowing basement or attic, because only deranged people would put valuable documents there. Katja went through every square inch of her office at work. Then we went through all the boxes in the house again. I entertained the possibility that one or another of the workers who had had access to our house in recent weeks had stolen the tax papers as part of an identity theft plot. At first this idea seemed a little paranoid, but it became more and more plausible as time went on.
Even though we were lacking most of the necessary materials, we kept our appointment with Teddy at his law firm on Thursday, Apr. 14. A jovial and personable fellow, Teddy seemed unflappable. I guess he’d seen it before. He said we’d need to request an extension, and he generated a list of tax forms that we’d need to obtain in the process. Then we talked for a while about Teddy’s daughter’s llama farm, Katja’s post-retirement ideas about traveling around the world to attend all the Grand Slam tennis tournaments, and my recent camping adventures. Teddy said he disliked camping, having last done so in a rainstorm at age sixteen. Katja wasn’t that enthusiastic either. Afterward we stopped at our bank where it took half an hour to get a statement documenting that we’d earned $9.84 in interest in the year 2010. I then spent an hour on the phone with customer service representatives from two financial organizations figuring out how to get K-9 forms online to document dividends earned from investments. I felt a brief moment of triumph when I succeeded in doing so. However, we still lacked a K-9 form from the institution which manages my retirement funds, and, because they would only make it available by snail mail, our efforts seemed doomed.
Sunday morning Katja made bacon and eggs, and I took the dogs out for a short walk. When I came back Katja said in a half-excited, half-morose tone of voice, “Guess what… I found the forms.” They’d been in a paper bag in the first-floor closet which contains our clothes washer and dryer. The moment she found them, Katja remembered having put them there for safekeeping. She’d actually searched that closet, but she had concentrated on digging behind the coats and piles of boxes on the floor and hadn’t noticed the innocuous bag sitting right out front. I hadn’t even thought of looking in the washer/dryer closet. We had mixed reactions. It was good to know that we hadn’t thrown out or shredded the tax materials and even better that they hadn’t been stolen by identity thieves. But it was depressing to realize that we might have filed our taxes on time if we’d found the documents two days earlier. I went to my office and faxed the missing materials to Teddy, along with a polite message hinting that we wouldn’t be upset if he decided we could actually file our taxes by Monday’s deadline. Teddy e-mailed me back on Monday morning and said it was too late; he’d already filed for an extension. It wasn’t the end of the world. Katja and I sat down and ate some rhubarb pie. We agreed we would start getting organized better for our 2011 taxes in the near future. And, who knows, maybe we will.
-Vicki L (4-24): Hi David, What an ordeal. While I think most everyone in the world gets upset around tax time (your Uncle Sam picture explains this I think - he's a very unique projective surface) - I think it's too bad brother Peter isn't around to reassure you about the 'ways of the world'. As far as I know, there's no complication/consequence whatsoever in filing for an extension (so long as you do it on time) - except that tax matters stay on one's 'to do list' beyond April 15th. Anyway, glad you got them in… Happy Easter, Sis
-Jennifer M (4-19): Oh my goodness, I didn't see this ending coming. Glad you found the documents?