I’d been looking forward to doing my taxes.
This year, for the first time, I wouldn’t have to face the nightmare of dealing – alone, since Jake is, as always, in China – with the complications of joint filing with someone who owned a business.
Finally, I could file single. Finally, the process and paperwork would be straightforward. Finally, I could get this done in February. I was even looking forward to the tedium, since the tedium would be all mine.
I have long believed in the good people of H & R Block. They have, for years, led me safely through the complexities that are Jake’s forms with nothing but kindness and sympathy. For this, my first solo tax return, I wanted to trust in them again.
Tragically, my usual pasty, middle aged, ponytailed expert was not there to greet me – instead I was assigned what appeared to be a twelve year old schoolgirl. Her giggle was shrill and relentless as she fidgeted her way through my papers, stopping on occasion to ask me to interpret the questions on her screen. I did not know these answers, which is why I pay to have someone else do this. Eventually, she’d get help from another agent, who would say, each time, “Remember how I showed you this before? And remember how I told you to calm down a little?”
All this, however, was nothing compared to the realization of the grim reality that is the double to single transition: single people are taxed more. Since I didn’t change my W4s until I was legally divorced, there was a pretty high discrepancy between my withholdings and my taxes.
My schoolgirl, of course, burst into peals of laughter when the figure appeared. Loudly, she announced that she was new to the job and I was her first client ever who had to pay. She repeated this as she printed forms, stapled, searched in vain for addresses and envelopes: “I can’t believe you have to pay! I’ve never had anyone who had to pay!” I, still reeling from the unexpected depletion of my savings, wanted to punch her in the face.
So this is my advice to any of you contemplating divorce: Change your tax forms the second you are in any way separated. And if the tax people assign you a child, get up, leave, and try the other branch.