Matt's Tax Tips

It's tax time again, and I ventured down into my tax hole to finish mine last week. Since the experience is fresh in my mind, I'd like to offer up some tax tips to readers who complete their taxes on their own. (Note to readers: if you are unfamiliar with my writings, they tend to be humorous in nature, though that point is arguable. As such I feel I must cover my derriere legally, and note that the tips in this column are not legal, financial, or tax advice. They are not even advice. Or suggestions. Just humor. Using humor to solve your tax problems is equivalent to using Three Stooges hammer-against-the-head slapstick violence to solve your relationship issues.)

Paramount in completing your taxes successfully is to set aside an appropriate space, a "tax hole" if you will, to prepare them. I recommend a TV tray or rickety card table in a dank basement area, such as under a staircase or next to a water heater, lit only by a single 40-watt bulb hanging from above by a cord at least two feet long. The bulb must swing on the cord in a minimum 20 degree arc to establish the proper mood.

Next, gather your financial information. This is something you should do during the course of the tax year. I recommend storing your financial paperwork in a 32-pack hot dog carton. This box is the perfect size for a yearly accumulation of documents, and with seven year's worth of stored data stacked against the damp wall in your tax hole, the residual frankfurter aroma from the cartons will give your work area a pleasant odor. Plus, there is the added bonus of the required consumption of 320 hot dogs per annum. That's almost a dog a day.

I recommend you complete your taxes early, as soon as you receive all your W-2's, 1099's, 1492's, and similarly numbered mailings. Completing your taxes early results in a quicker refund, particularly if your state is on the verge of financial collapse.

Avoid tax preparation programs if you can; such software makes tax preparation too easy. Taxes are supposed to be complicated if you made your life complicated by accumulating too many debts, too many investments, or too much income from too many sources. The pain of completing taxes manually will remind you not to be a slave to the dollar. If you must use tax software, get your brainy youngster to operate the computer and frequently deride his techo-aptitude with the comment, “When I was a kid, I had to do my dad's taxes by hand.”

When you start the tax preparation, keep a six-pack of your favorite beer nearby. Drink exactly one beer per hour when you work on your taxes. The liquor will relax you, and help you determine how fast your tax work is progressing. If you complete your taxes in less than a six pack, you finished too quickly, and will need to review your work for at least two more beers.

After you complete your taxes, mail your return as soon as possible if a refund is expected. If you owe money, try to wait until April 15th to send in your payment. The longer you can delay your payment, the higher the probability you will be able to borrow your amount owed from a friend or family member who received a big refund.

Finally, start planning for the next tax year by ordering another case of hot dogs.