“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” So begins T.S. Eliot’s most famous poem, “The Wasteland,” which I studied in both high school and college and still barely begin to understand.
What I understand better is that, around these parts, April brings tax time. For the most part, I don’t mind paying my taxes. I’m happy to pitch in for better schools, safer communities, a clean environment and the myriad other efforts that make this country the great, if flawed, nation it is.
But preparing my tax documents presents a real challenge for me. I’m not especially money-minded. Money confuses and perplexes me. And to be frank, although I really like having it, I find money tedious to talk about and boring to think about. Even splitting the lunch tab three ways usually requires more financial acumen than I feel like summoning.
So except for my very early adult years when life was simple, I have always paid a professional to prepare my taxes for me. It’s been worth it to know that someone with more interest and expertise had filled in the right numbers in the right spaces, included all the pertinent forms, checked the correct boxes and ensured that everything was complete and accurate.
After my divorce in 2010, especially, I was glad to call on the services of my friendly tax guy, who was very good at explaining things in as much or as little detail as I needed in order to feel in control of my money. It was an important step in establishing my independence and competence.
When Douglas and I married in 2015, we were cautious about how to merge and manage our finances. Clearly, it made sense to have a shared fund for joint expenses, but we also agreed to maintain separate bank accounts and retirement portfolios.
Our situations are quite different. I’m grateful to receive a weekly paycheck with taxes and other deductions already accounted for. He is self-employed and handles all the complexities of running his business, including making quarterly tax payments and maintaining an exhaustive list of itemized expenses. So, other than making sure we share our living expenses fairly, we don’t get too entangled in each other’s finances.
But tax time has presented a bit of a challenge. We’ve been told that, almost always, married couples benefit financially by filing jointly. So for the past two years we’ve done that, with the understanding that we still want to track our individual tax responsibilities. Last year, for example, I got taxed on some unexpected gains from the sale of my house in Orono and changes in my investments. There was no reason Douglas should pay any portion of that, and he didn’t.
This year, on the other hand, I would have gotten a tidy refund, but it was offset by Douglas needing to send in a bit extra. So he’s going to pay me the amount of the refund — but it will go straight into the shared account we’re building for travel expenses.
I suppose all this makes sense, but I’m not certain of it and I don’t need to be. I’m not interested in tracking every dollar and dime that flows through our lives, and I’m grateful that Douglas is pretty relaxed about it, too. We expect that over time, the edges of our respective financial pictures will blur a bit, though we’ll always keep some separation, too, in the interest of our long-term estate planning.
In the meanwhile, it’s a relief to have navigated another rainy April tax season in good spirits and with only minor confusion. We’re looking forward to the coming year, already planning our projects and adventures, aware of life’s unpredictability and serendipity.
Read more of Meg Haskell at livingitforward.bangordailynews.com