‘The taxman cometh’ — serving up anxiety for many of us

At least the free service at the county’s libraries can ease some of the pain

Harriet Cuthbert. Contributed photo

Let’s face it: Most of us are in dread when it comes to doing taxes.

I have been trying to figure out what we are most afraid of, and I think it is the fear of making a mistake, being caught massaging the numbers in our favor and winding up in debtor’s prison — for life.

I was never, ever good with numbers. (Language is my forte.) I took a course in college called “What is Math?” I prayed for a D and I got it — a better grade than a total loser, non-credit F, if I may say so.

My husband was always the bean counter in the family — the math major in college who enjoyed the purity and proven facts of numbers. Problem solving is objective, not subjective. Things changed in our personal life last year, so filing tax returns fell to me — with a bang. In the past, my only job was to sign on the dotted line. Now I have to look for all those “W” forms, medical records, former tax returns, etc.

Panic set in at one point, but there was a light at the end of my Kafka nightmare. I found out that there are people (saints) from AARP who come to our libraries and volunteer their time to do our taxes — and the service is free!

I had the pleasure of taking my documents last year to a wonderful, patient and experienced tax preparer. He led me through all the hoops I had feared so much, and we managed to finish everything in one round. In retrospect, the most stressful part of that day was the long wait until my name was called.

A year later, there I was again at the Gulf Gate Library, two hours early, but glad to be there, even if in panic mode once more.

Let me think: With a choice of doing taxes or having a root canal, which procedure is more painful? I am picking taxes, because no one gives you Novocain beforehand. As a result, you are awake and sober the whole time the volunteer is working on —I mean, with you.

This year, every form the woman from AARP looked at and entered into the computer could have posed a problem, i.e., did I pay enough taxes on any earned income? Did I list all my medical expenses? In spite of those fears, I felt this had to be the most boring task I had ever encountered.

As it turned out, there was a huge discrepancy with something, and I owed the U.S. Treasury more than a few dollars. Well, at least I did not have to pay for the tax preparer to give me the bad news.

Editor’s note: For more information about the free tax aid service, visit www.myfreetaxes.com or call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 861-5000.