Monday, April 16, 2012


Life and Taxes

The average US tax refund check is almost $3,000. That is a surprising amount of dough the IRS is over-taking from you each year, but what can you do? (Move to the Cayman Islands where they don't have income tax and also it is sunny and beautiful and there is Tortuga rum cake which you could try approximating with this recipe — use prepackaged yellow cake mix for yet another shortcut — but those of you who've had the real deal will definitely taste the difference.) Did you spend yours in your head yet? Reuters suggests "having fun" with your return by buying five shares of Apple stock or 600 mocha frappuccinos at Starbucks. You could also get yourself and your bestie matching hunting bracelets. And according to this article, 34 percent of women find tax refunds more satisfying than sex. So there you have it, a very succinct post about tax day which is tomorrow in case you forgot.


shopping, money, taxes

107 Comments / Post A Comment


Say what you will about freelancing, but I never ever have to worry about what to do with my tax refund?


@deepomega Right? I was a student for most of last year, but since I worked a *few* months as an independent contractor, i might end up owing money! doubleyou. tee. eff.


@deepomega This year I owed $5,000! Independent contractor work is the worst, I am never doing it again. (also, the lesson is to pay your quarterlies.)


@deepomega Woo! I'm not sure, but I may have said a number of illegal things just to get my owed amount down into the three digits.


This was really very interesting for me.@a

dj pomegranate

Tax refunds < sex. Who are these people?!


@dj pomegranate It is a sad truth that some women have never had an orgasm! (It is a not-sad truth that some women, though perhaps fewer than the non-orgasm-having ones, are asexual.)


@cuminafterall Sigh, I am a very enthusiastic member of that 34% and may or may not have clapped and done a chair dance when my refund cleared. (I then immediately used it to pay down student loan debt and am still irrationally pleased with my still-exorbitant-but-noticeably-lower balance.) I may need to look into the quality of my sex life.


@dj pomegranate I typically find getting $3,000 to be more satisfying than a single sex act. I'm guessing that's probably not what they mean, but that's how I'm choosing to interpret that stat.


@wharrgarbl The year I got $3,500 back, for various reasons, yes, that was more exciting than sex at the moment.

dj pomegranate

@DrFeelGood Ohhh, so I was thinking like, sex IN GENERAL. That did not make any sense to me, because I would not give up sex for $3k. But one act of the sex...that makes more sense.


@hulia But...but...if you raised your withholdings you could have had that money to pay your loans and save on interest all year long! That would be like having great sex every month! Or something!


@dj pomegranate I'm happily married to a guy who rocks my socks off, but I already have sex available to me, you know? Money is far more of a novelty. I can't just walk into the next room of my apartment and say, "I'm in the mood to deposit a big check, let's go!"


@dj pomegranate Must be nice. For some of us unfortunates, sex is still the far more exciting (and rare) thing, though!


Taxes! I am getting $115 back from my "state" tax return and I am going to spend it on flowers (for Mother's Day, and also for me).


@cuminafterall I love this!


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I somehow owe the Feds... a thousand dollars. Somehow, my employer wasn't taking out enough, or I didn't ask them to, and I am sad and stressed and probably going to have to borrow money from pater et mater to make this bill.

I haz a taxes sad.

Although! I like paying taxes as a general thing. I like supporting our public good. Just, in a fiscally manageable way.

sarah girl

@PistolPackinMama I think we bonded over this in a different thread, but I unexpectedly owe a thousand dollars, too!! Mine is from using my Americorps education award to pay down some student loans last year - as it's called an AWARD and no one informed me otherwise, I assumed that it wasn't considered taxable income. Wrong!

Also, the fucking IRS only told me about this last week, after I'd ALREADY done my taxes, gotten a decent refund and spent it all. Assholes.


@PistolPackinMama @Sarah H. If you wish, the IRS will allow you to set up monthly payments so you won't have to pay the debt all at once. I think the minimum is $50 a month, but it can make things easier on you. You can also increase your withholding from your current job if you go that route and think it's going to take more than a year to pay off - just remember to re-adjust your withholding when you're done (I did not, for more than a year after I'd paid off my own IRS surprise, thanks self employment income!).

sarah girl

@Eve@twitter I'm looking into the monthly payment plan tonight, thank you!


@Sarah H. I called Pater Pistol Packin Mama to ask him what kind of plan I should ask for, because I am still needing of reassurance that I can do these things because money is scary and help is helpful, and my parents are awesome.

Anyway. Pater's answer was to transfer money to my bank account (he has it on account of what I thought was a one-time transfer, but apparently, not, it's a forever transfer option). And he put in $1,000.00 more than I need.

So I guess I get to write him another refund check along with the repayment over the year checks? Or something?

Money. Scary.


@PistolPackinMama This is my first year ever doing taxes, and I almost had to pay more money (like $2000!!) and I was freakin out so I asked my parents and their lawyer friend to look at it. Thank god they found that I hadn't included something or whatever and then luckily I broke even. Seriously scared the crap out of me. I feel for you. Taxes sadz indeed.


From my experience preparing taxes, women who were getting big refunds (usually single/divorced moms raising children of a deadbeat dad) were usually happy to get the refund because they were putting off some big purchase, like fixing the car or buying a car. That is a broad generalization based on personal experience preparing hundreds of tax returns in the rural United States and not meant to imply anything in general about women, men, rich people, poor people, the state of the economy, the state of average sexual satisfaction, the temperature inside a coconut being carried by a swallow, the continent of origin of the swallow, or whether Kevin Conroy is the one and true Voice of Batman (he is).


@Eve@twitter As a tax preparer, do you find any truth in the idea that people use extra exemptions as a way of saving - ie. they over-withhold so that they get a super large refund check? I have met a lot of people who say they do this, perhaps it's why the average refund amount is so high.

Tuna Surprise


I overwithhold because one year I owed the Government $10,000. It still hurts to think about it 5 years later.


@DrFeelGood I ran into a few people who would do that, but most of them overwithheld because they knew they would have or had had a big life event that changed their tax situation - marriage, divorce, owed money the year before and wanted to get out from under that debt ASAP. The majority of people who had high refunds were in that situation because they were head of household or single with dependent children and sometimes getting the Earned Income Credit for being po'. And a good number of the people I prepared taxes for weren't making terribly much money to begin with (rural, economically depressed area that it was), so taking out extra taxes and therefore having a smaller paycheck usually didn't cross their minds unless they had a previous experience that made them consider it.

@Tuna Surprise OMG. Ugh. Even after my own experience preparing taxes, I landed in that same boat of owing a daunting amount of money when I worked for a year as an independent contractor. Self employment tax is surprisingly high, and if you don't stay on top of your payments or choose to ignore your situation until tax time (guilty as charged right here), the IRS will make you sad. And I was sad for the next 3 years that it took me to get that debt paid off.


@DrFeelGood I overwithhold intentionally because I am really bad at saving (and also, I make barely-above-minimum-wage), so I really really don't want to owe anything in April and not have it on hand. The refund is a nice "surprise," but my main goal is to not owe.

Lil Sebastian

You can adjust your with holdings so that doesn't happen again. People love to be like, I estimate my with holdings perfect so the government doesn't earn MY interest all year long, which valid, but getting a surprise couple thou ain't bad.

Lil Sebastian

@Lil Sebastian PS- my husband underpaid about a grand and I overpaid enough to cover that plus get another 2 grand back. He makes twice as much as me, so I am the one doing it wrong. Upside: we went to Mexico for a week!


@Lil Sebastian Also, right now interest rates are so low that you're not likely to earn a significant amount on a few thousand dollars. As far as I'm concerned, it's six one way, half a dozen the other.


Ugh. I got next to nothing back this year, which is sad for me. I can has $3,000 plz?


@cherrispryte Me too, but I comfort myself with thinking about how much mortgage interest the first-time home-owner's credit that's sucking up all our refund has saved us.


@wharrgarbl Right? Did Turbotax screw me over? I was really hoping to get enough back to pay off that medical loan I took out three years ago to get two teeth repaired that I had cracked from clenching my jaw at night...but I didn't even come close and I also BIT THROUGH my $750 mouth guard recently, so the circle of life continues.

@sox I seriously need someone to tell me how to exist without dental insurance because I just spent 2 weeks of food budget on a cleaning. Worth it? Mostly..?

@sox I seriously need someone to tell me how to exist without dental insurance because I just spent 2 weeks of food budget on a cleaning. Worth it? Mostly..?

sarah girl

@S. Elizabeth I don't know where you live, but I often see Groupon deals for local dentists! Also, those stupid ValuPak mailers that show up every week sometimes have coupons for dentists.

@Sarah H. I can shell out for a cleaning every 6 months, but shit do I not want to pay for any extra work out of pocket and I'm really not willing to go into debt over the fucking dentist. Law school, yes. Getting a cavity filled, no.


@S. Elizabeth I think that shelling out for a cleaning every 6 months is how you avoid getting cavities filled!*

*says the 24 year old with 2 root canals and more fillings than tooth**

**who did not get cleanings regularly for years because anxiety

@redheaded&crazie I slacked off for a while (before I was just like "omfg self, just go to the fucking dentist") and have to get shit done. Not a lot of shit, just... enough that I'm thinking about calling my mom and seeing if she can strong-arm her work into putting me on their dental as well as their health insurance. I'm a student grrrrrr.

sarah girl

@redheaded&crazie Augh, not to threadjack, but I'm in that anxiety phase right now. I've decided I need to go in for a cleaning, but I have noooo idea how to pick a decent dentist - I'm in the DC area, and there are literally hundreds. :( I don't want sedation dentistry or anything, but definitely someone nice.


@S. Elizabeth i need to get "omfg self, just go to the fucking dentist" tattooed on my forearm.

your plan sounds do-able! you're a student!


@Sarah H. looks like i already threadjacked which, whoops, but i would call a bunch of places and be straight up "I have dental anxiety, i need somebody nice"

hahahha no i wouldn't i would never call anybody and instead i would eat icecream and be like "oh that pain isn't too bad! barely even noticeable!"


@Sarah H. If you have appointment-making anxiety, don't go to my dentist... the dentist and hygienist were both super-nice, but the receptionist was really grumpy and moved my appointment time around without telling me and generally made everything SO MUCH WORSE. I will pick an office with a nice receptionist over a nice dentist every time.

@redheaded&crazie I actually did this! And even let every single neurotic, obsessive compulsive, weird anxious thing come out of my mouth and they basically took pity on me. I got hooked up with the nicest lady dentist ever who was super cool and chill, even after I went into Ativan-induced confession ("I'm sometimes afraid of my own teeth. I hate my mouth because it produces germs. Flossing involves the most ridiculously disgusting, horrible sounds and I'm afraid all of my teeth will fall out because of the noise. I hate dentists because of the dentists office I went to as a very shy child and there were other people around and it was like public shaming with FLOURIDE and PLEASE JUST MAKE IT BETTER!").

So yeah, I'm winning this whole being an adult thing. After the dentist, I went to Sephora and bought lipstick.


@S. Elizabeth I am about to politic and stuff. But. This? This is why we need better health care options in this country. Gah.

Peanut Butter

@S. Elizabeth OK, I know this because there is a random dental student in one of my classes(?). Apparently the dental hygienist training program offers like $20 buck cleanings to the general public and like $5 for students. Kind of like the training hair salons. But an actually dental person will creep on the thing and make sure your teeth are getting cleaned. Ask any colleges/community colleges in your area about such things?


@Sarah H. Go to my dentist, she's amazing. Totally non-judgmental, extremely good at what she does, and my favourite part is that she explains the science behind everything she says. Her name's Jennifer Norris http://jennifernorrisdmd.com/.

I probably sound like some sort of sneaky marketing program but seriously, she's fantastic.

sarah girl

@AuntAgatha !!! Thank you so much! I just checked my dental insurance site and she shows up, so I'm going to look into getting an appointment. I'm scared, but! It's time.


I'm getting $4 back from the federal governemnt this year and I can't wait to spend it on half a cocktail.


@Vicky Johnson NO WAY. I got exactly $4 back too! I got $189 back from the Fed, and owed the state $185. I will cheers you with my half a cocktail!

As it happens though, this is exactly how I want my taxes to be every year. Of all the teachings I have ignored from my darling conservative father (I am a chip off of my liberal mother's shoulder), the one that managed to stick was that you should always break as close to even as possible on your taxes. The gov'ment doesn't give me interest free loans (can you imagine!!!), and so I loathe giving them one. I mean, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be receiving a $3K check right about meow, but I'd rather earn my 1/4% interest putting that extra $$ into a savings account that giving to to Uncle Sam for free.


@tessamae Is "right about meow" a thing? Because... I love it.

Ham Snadwich

@tessamae - Gah, that happened to me too. Federal refund - $400, Owed to state - $394. So unsatisfying.

ann aunamis

My dad used to do my taxes for me and never got me much back. Then my ex-fiance did them one year and got me $2000, which I told my father about joyously. As expected he gave me the lecture about not letting the government make money off your money and my ex yelled out, "She would have just spent it on beer anyway!" Which was true, but not necessarily something you tell your future father-in-law. (This is, however, not why he's my ex.)


I owed $1.00. One dollar. Having to write a check for a single dollar is really demoralizing when you were hoping for a big refund.

I guess it's good it wasn't $100.00 but I feel like the feds could've let me have that one.


@KatnotCat Not what you want to hear, but if the government owes you money, that means you lent them money interest-free. If you owe the government money, vice-versa (not a bad thing, but who wants to pay money back to the government?). Which means you ideally want to be right around zero...or $1, as the case may be. So that's good!



@lalaland that argument holds less sway with me in these days of extremely-low-interest-yielding savings accounts. Unless I could drop some serious coin in a CD or had a retirement account to plop it in, they're not making LOADS more off my money than I would be. Right? Help me understand.


@lalaland Yeah..I know I can only complain so much, but they could at least accept a cash payment.


I got married last year, and I cannot tell you the unmitigated pleasure I had of dumping all my tax info into my husband's lap and never looking back. He actually ENJOYS doing them, and we got our return in February. Alas, we spent it ALL on paying off the credit cards (and therefore, paying off the wedding).


@charlesbois - I just looked into it after doing my taxes yesterday and found out that if we got married (and the boyfriend and I both made about what we're making now) I'd actually pay MORE taxes, and he'd pay about the same amount. Boo, government incentivizing/diincentivizing marriage through the tax code!

Also I owe so much money, so general grump about taxes.

ms. alex

@charlesbois Same here, except I did the taxes and my husband just looked to make sure I didn't miss anything. I've been doing them for longer than he has. Spent our refund on credit card & student loan bills as well.
Now when people talk about getting their taxes done, I'm like "taxes? wasn't that three months ago?" I just know I wouldn't be able to rest until they're done and over with.


I don't want to brag, but I got $78 and I spent it all at Vons (plus an extra $20) the next day. Ballin'.


I remembered the 'lifetime learning credit" and was able to put down some classes that I took last year, upping our refund from ~$100 to closer to $1,000. Hells to the yes I was fucking excited.


Clearly, the best solution is to hide your massive wealth in the Caymans and live wherever you want; then blame poor people for abusing welfare.


@Too Much Internet Have you considered a run for President, sir?


@charmcity: Because I'd want to create an environment where every American was afforded an opportunity to achieve greatness via enforcement of a system that prizes justice and fairness, no, I have not, since that is not a very popular platform.

Tuna Surprise

Don't go to Cayman - it's a trap! Americans living abroad must still pay taxes!!!


@Tuna Surprise don't TAKE your money there, just HIDE it there.


I'm still trying to figure out how I owed almost $400 and made only $25k last year. I'm destined to be perpetually broke!!! :(


My entire tax return (a few hundred bucks) went toward my first ever trip to Europe, which is at the end of May. Money well spent, says I!


@Dancercise Mine is paying for getting me back home after some months in Europe! I wish you well on your first European adventure...it's addicting!


Thanks! I'm so excited. (Also, I love your username. "Maritime law. Lawyers of the Sea.")


Taxes always make me a bit nervous because as an employee of the IRS, I can get fired if I do them wrong. Luckily as a single, non-homeowner with one paycheck, I've got it pretty easy.

Setec Astrology

@ImASadGiraffe - You would think the least they could do is offer free tax verification-for-correctness to IRS employees.


@Setec Astrology There are a quite a lot of IRS employees so I think that would get expensive to offer, and you know, American taxpayer dollars!


Sex>taxes. Especially when you just had to fork over $3K to the feds and $1100 to the state.


@Kirs Ouch.


I filed taxes on my own for the first time this year and got almost $1,000 back, which for someone who's still in school isn't too shabby! (At least it felt that way to me.) I spent some of it on things (what things, you ask? I ask the same. I do not remember what this money went to, but I'm sure it was lovely and I use it all the time! It was just a couple months ago...) and put most of it in my savings account.


I put my $300 refund into my IRA.

That is the most responsible sentence I have ever uttered (typed?).


@bitzy I put mine towards paying off my credit card. When did I become an adult?


@area@twitter Not sure...But I did just make plans to go drink too much beer on a Monday while I watch a show featuring dragons, so maybe not quite there yet.


@bitzy /highfives And I'm planning to drive four hours next weekend so I can hang out at a movie premiere, so...same.


@area@twitter Me too! Unfortunately, I became an adult AFTER I gave myself credit card debt :/


Why are we not talking about that cake recipe? It looks like a delicious result, but I just can't talk myself into making something that has instant pudding mix as an ingredient.


@SarahDances Augh, me too. Instant mixes and I rarely get along as far as baking is concerned.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher pudding mix is weird in that way. It has special qualities that are hard to replicate, when a recipe calls for dry pudding mix.
I'm now DYYYYING to bake something and soak it in rum. My mom, for whatever reason, ordered me a cake from rum cake lounge (some weirdo website with amazing rum cakes) a few months back, and i basically ate it for every meal of the day for a little while. it was amaaaaaaaaazing.


@SarahDances I have been to the Tortuga rum cake factory, and it is basically a place to stop and eat all the cake and drink all the rum (in small, but unlimited, servings). I highly endorse it, especially if you're on your way to somewhere else and you're not the one driving.


@SarahDances: Noooo, one of the best dessert recipes I have requires instant lemon pudding mix. It's called cranberry glazed cheese pie, it's from my mom-in-law's book of farm recipes...and it's a brief visit to heaven on earth.


@Bittersweet um, so, what do i have to do to get my hands on that recipe? start a farm? so that i get the farm recipes?
because, i'm totally down. What happened to the Hairpin Communal? AniaGosia, how are those chickens?


Wait! Isn't tax day April 15th? I have been overseas for a while now, so maybe they have changed things?


@ormaisonogrande DC holiday today + 15th being a sunday = April 17th is tax day.


@candybeans Oh, thanks! I was thinking that the 16th would make sense, because I had to pay taxes at least once when the 15th fell on a weekend, but the 17th was making me freak out about everything changing.


Guys, I did my taxes in January like I do every year so that I can get my FAFSA done early and because I'm a student and desperately need the extra money. So...old news? Though I still failed to file state because Illinois is dumb and you can't file online until you file twice on paper. What Illinois? Why are you weird.


Oof, how does anyone ever get $3000 back? I got the biggest refund of my life this year, and it was a third of that. Which I spent on veterinary dental cleaning for my dog. I would love to have gotten $3K back!


I have never gotten more than like 100 dollars back, because my parents kept filing me as a dependent so THEY could get money back (even though I did not live at home! and they did not pay more than half of my expenses!...I hope the IRS is not reading this)

BUT this year I got to file independently because as I'm no longer a student my parents were out of excuses and I made ALL OF THE MONEY. Or in other words, 3,300 dollars. And I haven't even filed the renter's refund thing yet.

I'm going to San Francisco in a month! Also, I paid off my credit card, and a bunch of student loans. Hello money from the government! Goodbye money, back to the government with ya!


@MissMushkila Your parents could have argued that while you were a full-time student, your home is technically at their home, and the percentage of the cost of their rent/mortgage you take up would have been more than 1/2 of your living expenses. It's a hard one to prove unless you track every purchase, most auditors won't even bother trying to prove that one to take away the exemption.


@ImASadGiraffe Except that I haven't lived at home, even in the summer, since I was 18. And I paid for school by myself/with loans. And began working full time before I graduated. I'm not actually worried about them getting audited, but by all of the examples on the IRS site it wasn't a legitimate claim. And you should have heard the sad, sad regret they expressed about not getting to claim me anymore. Which was my main thing with that. Reeaaallly guys?


@MissMushkila My parents, too, gleefully claim everything they can so they can increase their massive and obscene pile of bank.

Unfortunately, this past fiscal year I really was their dependent. Sigh.


In past years I bought exciting and exotic things with at least part of my tax refund (shoes, computer parts, that one gaming peripheral I never use). This year it went directly into paying off the credit card, which I find responsible and depressing. I dream about the day when I've paid off my car/credit card/student loans and can wave around cash like Lil Wayne.


I owe $3000 this year. Spent much of the past month going back and forth with the tax people at work to find out if this could possibly be true, and apparently it is. I'm trying to tell myself that this means the government gave me an interest-free loan. It's not helping that much.


Halfway through 2011 I became a self-employed writer, and though I spent plenty of time patting myself on the back for successfully budgeting my (very small) book advance so that I could eat etc, it didn't even OCCUR to me that I'd need to appoint a sizable chunk of it to pay my taxes. I'm sort of in shock about how much I owe and how naive I was. I'm having to borrow money to pay them. So much for adulthood. :/


@paperbuttons UGGHH. My first year of 'contracting,' freelancing, and general-scraping-by I owed SO MUCH MONEY. How does a person making below the poverty line need or be able to shell out $1500 at the end of the year?


@paperbuttons ITEMIZE EVERYTHING. Seriously. Anything you do that is remotely related to work. My husband is a cartoonist and watches movies while he draws and he itemizes all his dvd rentals and netflix, not to mention a percentage of our internet connection, etc. Any trip he takes anywhere, he brings books to sell to stores and writes off mileage or airfare.


@hallu Wow, that's inspiring! I was able to write off some stuff here and there, but I was really timid about it over all. I will be bolder next year. Thank you!

Emma K@twitter

For a contract job this year where I made $17,000 I owed almost $6,000. I budgeted for taxes since I knew I was going to have to pay my own social security and medicare but I didn't realize it would be that much. Kinda makes me wish I had one real job instead of two part-time jobs and a few side projects. When I start to think about how much I make an hour, after taxes, it makes me cry.

Also, my husband and I were just audited, so we get to pay an ABSURD amount to an enrolled agent just to prove that we are not scamming the IRS. We are a teacher and a librarian with modest assets - I really don't understand what the IRS thinks we are hiding.


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