Monday, February 22, 2016

Death by Taxes by Leah St. James

Have you done your taxes yet? Hubby and I tried last weekend. It nearly killed us. We took this weekend off and will try again next weekend.

Before you think we have a Trump-like balance sheet (hahahahahaha... sorry, got a bit hysterical there), we don’t. We have a teeny, tiny small business that requires all sorts of paperwork to keep legal in the eyes of the taxing authorities in our town and state—not to mention with Uncle Sam.

This story is all about our state—the Commonwealth of Virginia—so I’ll save our adventures with the IRS for another date.  

Now, I love living in Virginia. I love the pretty gentility of the landscaping around the shopping centers. I love the kinder drivers who actually let you merge without delivering that one-fingered salute. I love the kids who bag my groceries in the grocery store.

But our process for filing taxes? Not so much. 

As with most bureaucracies, the state has different forms and different filing requirements for different types of legal entities. Looks pretty normal to me.

For our particular category, we’re required to file the annual income report electronically. But that's okay. We're smart people. We can handle it. Probably just download from the state, check some blocks on the form and click 'send'...right?

Wrong. The state doesn't provide the form. You have to use a state-approved commercial tax-preparation software for filing this specific form. The state does provide waivers if your chosen tax software doesn’t support Virginia’s electronic filing system.

Every year to this point we’ve been granted a waiver (and have filed manually with paper forms), but this year the state notified us that our waiver-ability had run out. 

Not ready to admit defeat, certain that the state couldn't FORCE us to buy expensive software (could it?), I called and was told by a really nice representative that we might qualify for the EZ form, which is filed manually and doesn’t require special tax software. All we had to do was answer “yes” to a bunch of eligibility questions. 

We checked...and we answered yes. Yay!

Things were looking up, until we tried to file the blasted thing. It seems our little company’s ID starts with a different series of numbers than the entities that are approved to use the EZ form. 

Close, but no cigar.

So off we went to look for the state-approved software...a CHEAP state-approved software.

Turns out there is no such animal. These things are designed for those companies with Trump-like balance sheets....or their armies of CPAs and tax lawyers.

But we soldiered on, and we purchased a package by a nationally known company that had a less-shocking sticker price. We downloaded the software, realized we had to do the Federal return first, struggled and yelled for about an hour while we tried to figure out where to put our information. Then it was time to sign the federal return.

Believe it or not, we had to download a form, sign the form, scan it and save it as a PDF, then attach it to the electronic filing. I kid you not.

Somehow we got through it and supposedly filed the federal taxes.

On  a “high” from beating that approved tax-preparation program into submission, we started the state return and made it to the electronic signature page. There we discovered that a different signature form was required. We went to the little toolbar that held all the forms—and the required form wasn’t there, although it looked like we could get it, if we paid an additional $19.95. Sigh. Whatever. Just wave the white flag at that point and surrender.

We looked again. We went to the company's website and searched. We Goggled it. 

Finally I called the Help Line and (thankfully) actually spoke to a person. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’m trying to download form (blah, blah) but the payment button doesn’t appear to work.”

Tax preparation software rep: “Oh, I know what’s going on. The form isn’t yet available.”

Me:  “Why not?”

Tax preparation software rep:  “It isn’t approved yet.”

Me: “What isn’t approved yet? I’m sorry, I’m confused.”

Tax preparation software rep:  “Form (whatever it was) to certify your electronic signature. It isn’t approved.”

Me:  “Well...whose approval is needed?”

Tax preparation software rep:  “Virginia’s. They just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  Check back in a few weeks.”

We haven’t checked yet. We’re milking this reprieve from torture. Only a lottery win between now and next week will save us. At least then we could hire a team of CPAs and tax lawyers to file this single form for us. 

Here’s hoping your tax-preparation season is going more smoothly. If you’re thinking of going into business, check your state's tax filing requirements first!


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Learn more at


Margo Hoornstra said...

Oh, Leah. Best of luck with your quest to live by the rules and comply with the laws. It's not always easy, is it? Check back in a few weeks. Hah! Unbelievable! Hang in there.

Diane Burton said...

I feel your pain, Leah. Tax reporting is enough to tear your hair out. Good luck!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Argh! Why make it easy for the small business? I'm a little angry for you. All I can do is wish you good luck!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Oh, the frustration! Calvin and I would have been two miles closer to the crazy house. And just WHY hadn't this form been approved yet? Oh, right, the government had to do something...ACK!! We live in VA, too. We use a tax accountant to do our taxes State and Federal. At our ages, it's $250. well spent. Plus she gives us some great advice. We've used her for the past seven years.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Geesh! I suspect your wine consumption for tax-preparing time is off the charts! Will we ever get tax forms to the point they're easy to use? Probably not in my lifetime. My husband is the type who seems to like the challenge...and he does use the software/electronic submission. Frankly, I have no idea how he does it...I sign the form and say thanks...then I cross my fingers-hoping he was accurate and praying the auditors leave us alone!

Jannine Gallant said...

We have a small construction business plus my author business. I've used an accountant for years. She sends me the questionnaire. I plug in all our income and expenses. She hands me the completed taxes to sign. Money well spent since I know on my own I'd be missing deductions. Your situation sounds like a nightmare! I hope you get it resolved soon.

Alison Henderson said...

OG wouldn't have a hair left on his head if we went through what you've been dealing with. He does our taxes with TurboTax, and so far, so good. As a result of a remarkable set of technicalities, we actually didn't owe any taxes last year. We were so shocked I called TurboTax, and one of their helpful tax attorneys researched and confirmed it. We paid extra for their insurance, just in case, but no audit yet! Wouldn't it be wonderful if politicians were willing to simplify the system?

Leah St. James said...

Thanks for your commiserations, Margo and Diane. It helps. Truly. :-)

Leah St. James said...

Brenda, I'm more than a little mad! I won't say it "couldn't" be more difficult (that would be jinxing us), but it's close! It's not like we've never used a computer or tax software. We've used TurboTax for years.

Rolynn and Alison, I'm 'this close' to throwing my presidential vote behind whatever candidate promises a simpler tax system. What a scam!

Leah St. James said...

Vonnie and Jannine -- The accountant angle is starting to look good. We had a CPA do them the first year, but since nothing has changed except the numbers, we've been doing ourselves since. It's been fine but this form thing is making me reconsider.

Alicia Dean said...

Oh my gosh, just thinking about all that gave me a headache. Taxes...not fun!

Leah St. James said...

I'm getting a headache thinking of having to get back to it. So sorry to be sharing my pain, Alicia! :-)