It’s that time of year– some look forward to it, some dread it– tax season! This is the first year I expected to get a refund (yay for marriage and babies!), but I also expected things to be a little more complicated than usual with the new Affordable Care Act.
The Healthcare Marketplace has been a blessing for my husband and I, who as small business owners must provide our own insurance. However, it has also caused much confusion and frustration since nobody seems to completely understand how it works. But that is a topic for another day…
One of my titles in the Rodriguez family is Money Manager. I pay the bills, keep track of what comes in and goes out, and make sure taxes are in order. Until this year, my tax duties simply meant that I nagged my husband to get his done on time and watched my dad do tedious calculations for mine to see how big of a check I had to write (boo! one of the drawbacks of bartending).
This year, as a married couple, I felt like it would be a little ridiculous to ask my dad to do my taxes — I’m 30 after all and that’s officially a grown-up. But I also wanted to make sure that I got them right, so I figured it would be best to let the professionals handle it. I made us an appointment at a large company that specializes in income taxes.
Because I wanted to get an idea of what was coming our way, I had already done a little run-through with Turbo Tax. We were going to have to pay back some, but not all of my husband’s health insurance subsidy. (Lame..because we had tried to estimate income truthfully…but anyways…)
Our tax appointment was relatively quick. However, when the final number for our refund popped up, it was much lower than I had anticipated. The “tax associate” cheerfully showed us how much money we would be getting back.
The scowl on my face confused her. “They’re making us pay the entire subsidy back?” I asked. “Why no, there’s no penalty for you!” she said with a smile. I then pointed to the screen where it showed that amount being deducted from our final refund and explained what that meant. (Wasn’t she supposed to be the expert?!) She stammered, “well, um, uh, that doesn’t seem fair. I’m sorry.” But she said there was nothing else she could do.
On the way home, I just couldn’t let it go. She was wrong. I just knew she was wrong. As soon as I had to explain to HER what the subsidy meant, I lost all confidence in her ability. Having to pay the tax preparation fee pained me. My husband tried to look on the bright side, “it’s still a lot of money,” he said. “Just let it go.”
But again, as a Garska, I could not. I again pulled up Turbo Tax and filled in all the numbers. Lo and behold, it said that we did not have to pay back to entire subsidy. There was an alternative calculation since we were not married the full year. It was a $600 mistake.
I immediately called the office and told them that I needed to come back in for them to fix my taxes and why. The receptionist didn’t seem to understand what I was saying, and when I returned the same evening I found that she had scheduled me with a brand new associate. At least this one readily admitted that she was not equipped to handle this situation. Unfortunately, the manager was out, though he called me and assured me that he would look into it personally the next day.
He did, but said that the numbers had come back the same. I knew that he had probably just plugged everything into the computer program again, so of course the results would be the same. I had no choice now but to go to the IRS website, print out all the instructions and worksheets needed, and check everything by hand.
It took most of my afternoon, but I was RIGHT. I went back to the tax store for the THIRD time and schooled the manager on how to properly complete the section dealing with the Affordable Care Act. (Not to brag…ok, maybe a little.) I wasn’t rude about it— it wasn’t his fault— turns out their computer program itself is flawed! Imagine how many others out there might have had errors in their returns too!
I learned a very important lesson through all this. As my mom says, “no one is every going to be as careful with your money as you are.” It is so true! It wasn’t the supposed “professionals” that I had PAID (though I will get that fee back obviously) to do my taxes that checked all their work by hand, it was ME.
I also learned that I am more capable than I give myself credit. I don’t know why I doubted that I could handle my own taxes. I can read. There are instructions for every single line. Sure, it takes a lot of time to do your own taxes, but not as much as making several visits to a tax office and re-doing everything over and over! I think we are all guilty of self-doubt at times, even if it is undeserved. As I found out, not trusting in your own abilities and relying on others can have serious consequences.
It can be difficult to turn off negative thoughts that tell us that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough— but we ARE! We have to learn to silence these internal voices, and in doing so, we will be able to do things that before might not have seemed possible. It’s tough— it’s something I work on every day! If you take nothing else away from this—at least double check your taxes! 🙂
This year I plan on using Turbo Tax again to file our tax return — it was easy to use and their calculations were correct!
**Disclaimer: This post is based on my own personal experience; I am not a tax professional. Your personal experience and return amount will be different than mine. Doing your taxes yourself does not guarantee that you’ll get a higher refund or you won’t make mistakes. Also, there are plenty of real accountants and tax professionals that DO know what they are doing!