God Bless the I.R.S.

So I finally got around to doing my taxes. I used Turbo Tax, because (it turns out) that was what I used last year, so it still had all my data in it. Er, so to speak.

Anyway, after confessing that I'd earned some cash through freelance work, I owed seven hundred bucks. I felt a little ill. I deducted gas and parking fees, I deducted all those Subway™ subs I'd had while working at Triton, and I mentioned that a $600 phone had been stolen from me. I don't know if that affected my tax bill at all, but Turbo Tax asked me, so I told them about it.

At the end of all that I still owed $409, and was feeling less sick than before, but not great. I called up the IRS directly, and was completely amazed! First of all, even on April 13th they were speedy as all hell. I went through a decent computer menu system, and then was on hold for maybe half a minute. I explained my problem (briefly) to the woman who answered, and was transfered. This time I was on hold for less then 20 seconds before a very resonable person answered.

You know how sometimes people at Radio Shack answer the phone, and it's crystal clear that they don't really know anything and, more to the point, have no interest in you? I a madman stabbed you to death while you were asking the store hours they wouldn't even blink, and would have no idea how to dial the cops? Well this was nothing like that at all. The guy who answered the phone sounded like an accountant (of course he was, but it was still surprising). He enunciated, and was very respectful of me. He called me Mr. Hopkins (I didn't bother to correct him) but he introduced himself as Mr. Baker as well--implying that he wasn't an ersatz friend but, rather, a professional who was going to help me.

After reviewing my records, he mentioned that this was the third year in a row that I owed money. Note that he did not, at all, reproach me for this. He merely noted it, and when I told him that I also miscalculated how much tax I'd owe because I had a day job he understood what I meant! He asked whether I'd thought about having a little extra taken out of my paycheck each month... I hadn't as it happened, and he's going to send me a little book about how to do that so I don't have to pay anything next year.

Finally, he signed me up for a third year of an installment plan. For my 2003 taxes I was working at Spotlight, and really not making very much. That was the year that I'd done all this extra work (freelance work) for local theatres and for Learning Worlds, and so I owed a thousand bucks. I thought I was ruined, but the IRS was fine with me paying them $25 a month for three years. Last year they were willing to increase the amount to $35/month and add in the taxes I owed, and this year he didn't even increase the monthly payments. Outstanding!!