Friday, April 15, 2011

Authority and taxes

pay county taxes sign with arrow

I am busy as a bee on our business taxes — but not in quite the same fashion, because then they'd be sticky with bee goop (aka honey) and harder to file. Especially electronically.

But I took a slight break yesterday to post this fabulous (fabulous! yes! believe it!) article on "Blogging and taxes" at

If you ever had questions like the following (or never did but if you will now), pop on over for my (inexpert) answers:

  • Is my blog even a business at all?
  • Do I have to report income if I make only a weensy bit?
  • Do I have to report giveaway wins as income?
  • What about items for product reviews, or barters of services in exchange for blogging?
  • How should I structure my business?
  • Do I need a business license?
  • Do I have to collect sales tax if I sell products?

And more!

While I was looking through my archives for other things I'd written about taxes, I found this article from three years ago, "The voice of authority."

Every year, I question the wisdom of doing our taxes myself vs. shelling out the dough for a professional. The main problem is that (a) the caliber of professional I'd need for our family business is very pricey and (b) I'd still have to do a good portion of the accounting work (say, 90%) in preparing for the tax return part. Unless we could hire a full-time accountant, but see (a).

Until our income balances out the priciness factor, our family businesses will be stuck with me as their accountant. And I majored in literature!

Here are some excerpts from the authority post so you don't have to do the onerous task of clicking over (owie — my mousing finger hurts!):

One of the recurring mocking metaphorical arguments against doing taxes solo goes like this: "You don't do your own dentistry, do you?"

I don't think that's a fair analogy. It's very hard to do one's own dentistry, due to the angles and the vision difficulties. But I do brush and floss my own teeth. That to me suggests a better comparison — just because there are experts that do some tasks professionally doesn't mean that amateurs who have studied and are talented at that task are worse off performing it alone. If I'm good at doing something, I might in fact be better at doing it for myself than someone else without such a personal knowledge of my situation or such a vested interest in my well-being.

I personally don't do any repairs on my own car, because I can't be bothered to learn how and don't feel that I have a natural aptitude for mechanics. Someone else would scoff that I could save money by doing minor maintenance on it myself, and they'd be right. That's why I agree with anyone who wants to use an accountant that they probably should — if you can't be bothered to do your taxes right, then go ahead and pay someone else to do them for you. But you'll be missing out on learning things that might help you, and you can't always trust the expert to be infallible.1 Just as I'm never sure if I'm being ripped off when I take in my car, that's the price you pay for not being willing to get your own hands dirty (in some cases, metaphorically speaking).

I've become much less trusting of experts over the years as I've realized that they're just people like me.

I used to seek out doctors for anything I thought was medically wrong with me, and now I rarely darken their doors. I got tired of being told inaccurate and incomplete information just because they couldn't take the time to listen to what I was saying or learn my history. I figured out that a lot of what I had sought expert advice for I could learn on my own just as easily, as my experience with acne showed me.

Nowhere has this tendency to go it alone crystallized more than as I've entered into parenting.

Beginning with the pregnancy and birth, I started researching what I had always been told and assumed and came to vastly different conclusions about what was optimal for me and my baby.

Once we began parenting, I had to question what I had seen my parents and other parents do and disregard the advice of pediatricians and traditional books.

I think part of the freedom from expert or traditional advice stems from the prevalence of information available now. With books and online articles to dispense information, with message boards and email to garner feedback in a virtual community, there's no need to rely on only one or even a second opinion — they're now almost unlimited. Could I have done my very complicated taxes myself twenty years ago, when I would have had to order paper copies of every IRS publication I needed, or call for advice on every question? Now I can go to and instantly access any form or instructions I need.

With any medical issues, I do what my son's current pediatrician does while we're there in the office (no joke) — type the symptoms into Google.2 Granted, if I needed open heart surgery, I wouldn't self-operate, but I have performed a couple skin-tag-ectomies. It hurts, but it's fast and cheap!3

I've been thinking about authority and experts a lot as I head into this second baby and have been meaning to do a separate post at some point. Basically, here's how many books and articles I've read about caring for a newborn during this second pregnancy: None.

This doesn't mean I'll remember everything from my previous experience, and I might be scrambling to research various elements of baby care as we journey through, but I'm in general just feeling more confident about the idea of trusting:

  • my instincts as a parent
  • my baby's cues and communication
  • the foundation of research, consideration, and experience I've already completed

I'm not feeling so much the need to get the "answers" about how to parent anymore.

It's related to birth as well — trusting my own body, trusting my baby, trusting the birth process — rather than seeking out an expert to "manage" my pregnancy and birth. I am seeing a professional in the form of a midwife, but the midwifery model of care is to let birth do its thing when possible.

How about you? Where do you seek expert help, and where do you go it alone? Taxes? Haircuts? Lawn care? Homeschooling?

Photo courtesy Craig Toocheck on stock.xchng

1 We used to go to H&R Block for our taxes until I got tired of explaining the tax laws to them. I later had to file amendments to get credits I deserved that they hadn't alerted me to, despite their oh-so-convincing commercials telling you they're the bomb diggity. By the way, what year is it if I use the term "bomb diggity"?
2 This is the same pediatrician who one day didn't show up for our appointment — and we could never get in touch with her again. I have this nagging feeling she wasn't a real doctor.
3 Oops, I think I quoted too long an excerpt. That blog author's going to get mad and sue me.


Laura said...

I had done my taxes completely on my own the past 5 years (not even using turbo tax) but after missing the make work pay deduction last year (thank you IRS for catching my error) and the fact that our taxes were even more complicated this year I went ahead and used turbo tax and I have to say it did make everything a lot faster. I didn't have to sift through all the irs publications and it did resolve a lot of ambiguity I've experienced in the past. But I think I would have missed some deductions had I not had the experience of doing it myself in the past, however I did receive one deduction that I never would have found on my own. Overall I think it was worth forking over the $100 this year.

Julie said...

I love this post! Hopefully the taxes go as quick and painlessly as possible!

I love the point you brought up about authority, too. I feel like my whole life was spent instilling the ultimate sense of authority in my heart. From those teachings, I have the foundation to question said authority, lol.

When I have a question I want to be answered, I ask it. And if I think I know and feel confident about something, I go with what I know/feel/etc. Sometimes even on the same topic I feel differently at different times.

Considering my "gut" about money/finances isn't very strong...I go running to H&R Block, hahahah!

Related Posts with Thumbnails