Friday, February 27, 2015

The Tax Tutor Cometh

My husband is a great provider for our family. It's a hard way to go about it -- being away from that family more than half the year in one of the hardest professionally skilled jobs on the planet, IMHO -- and sometimes we wonder if it's all really "worth it."

There's not much arguing with the net worth on the balance sheet, though. We may not be together like most couples get to be, but when we are together we get to live and travel and have experiences that a lot of couples only dream about. I mean, Robin Leach isn't going to show up any time soon, but it's a comfort for which I can be only grateful.

One of the greatest things Dan ever did for us financially was to contract with a local firm that manages all of our money matters. Taxes, investments, cash flow, household budget, college savings plan -- you name it, they do it. They set up a trust for all of our assets, and I finally got a power of attorney that makes handling business while Dan is away at sea so much easier.

The best part is that Dan and I can pester our financial consultant and our accountant -- hell, even the secretary there -- as often as we want. They are extremely nice and knowledgeable. And whenever there is an issue, or some sort of hoop jumping that financial matters inevitably require, they and the rest of the team there will do the research and make the calls and fill out the forms.

Oh my God, the forms.

Any and all forms ever sent my way should come with a brown paper lunch bag. Forms make me hyperventilate. I have a bad association with forms when it comes to money and insurance and other Really Important Stuff. Very bad. But the folks at Hantz, along with Titus & Urbanski, just handle it and tell me where to sign.

Spare me any lecturing on how I, especially as a smart and capable woman, should know more about finances and should be able to figure it out myself. I'm scarred, OK? Besides, for good or evil, money is rather important and having experts sort it all out isn't a dumb idea. I take my clothes to a really good tailor, even though I could take three times as long to hem my own pants and probably end up with uneven stitches and a bloody finger. I'll take my money to a really good financial firm, and I won't be the one calling the banks and the brokers and the myriad governmental gatekeepers and waiting on hold until Christ comes again.

Enter Tony the Tax Man, as I call him. T-Bone, as my husband calls him. We met him at a vendor's booth for his firm at our little village's annual summer festival. Dan had been on the hunt for a new CPA to prepare his taxes, which are ridiculous because of his sailing schedule, independent consulting, union, Navy orders, etc., and was considering a financial adviser too since I had quit earning my own paycheck and the whole family's financial stability was now in one basket.

Filed under Small World Wonders, it turned out folks from Tony the Tax Man's firm were the exact same ones who gave a presentation on retirement investments that I had covered for the newspaper. [You can read that little gem here: "Older residents urged to do estate, tax planning for retirement" -- I did not write that boring headline, by the way.]

Dan and I ended up scheduling a meeting with Brian the Brain (a moniker I only now made up but which totally fits), and it was he who had been the first one to ever make any of that 401(k) shit sound sensible to me -- and hopefully to the Silver Sneakers seniors gathered at the YMCA that day as well. A copy of my article was even laminated and among the pile of magazines on the lobby table when we first arrived at the office. Good omen, eh?

So now, Tony the Tax Man prepares our return, Brian the Brain keeps our finances on track, and Kristine the Great (our lovely lawyer queen) helped us prepare all of the documents that say who gets our kids when we die. Now that is one-stop shopping.

But today I'm particularly fond of Tony the Tax Man. A preview ad for HBO's "Silicon Valley" finally made me realize why he looks so familiar; Tony apparently is the stunt double for Zach Woods. A letter from the Ohio Department of Taxation made me realize how very vital Tony is in keeping my hyperventilating feelings at bay.

Good ol' ODT sent both Dan and me an "identity verification" letter stating how very concerned the department was with being responsible to the American taxpayer and doing everything it could to combat fraud. What I read was it wanted me to jump through one more goddamned hoop and had made it cumbersome enough in the hopes that it wouldn't really have to issue us any refund.

At first I played it very cool. I followed the letter's directions, went online to take the ID quiz, and had Dan's letter scanned in and ready to attach to an email that I planned to send to him aboard his ship with this very easygoing and reassuring note that I had successfully passed the quiz and he just needed to do this teensy little thing and everything would be golden.

Instead, I wrote him and cc'd Tony the Tax Man with a record of my failure. I couldn't even get past the log in page. But Dan couldn't either, and I suppose that made me feel a bit less incompetent. We kept getting these errors that we weren't in the Ohio Department of Taxation's system. All I could think was, "Then why the f*ck did you send me this letter?" This is why I hate this stuff so so so much. It never works out.

But Tony eventually got us the answers we needed and set us on the path to passing the quiz. Tony the Tax Tutor.

I highly recommend getting a financial adviser or manager or consultant, even if you think you don't have that many finances to be advised/managed/consulted in the first place. An adviser actually helps you find more money. And if you can, find one that does all these services together, especially if you are ever paying for anyone else to do your taxes. The fee for this particular firm is $100 a month, and that includes our annual tax preparation so really it's only 60 more bucks a month for the year. Money doesn't scare me that much to miss the good deal in all of this. Kristine the Great had her own fees, but if you have people you love and property you want to protect and pass on, you really need the kind of stuff she handles.

Now all that's in my little brown paper bag is a sandwich. Bought and paid for, baby. Pass the mayo.