Tax Time!

Apr 21, 2013 by

          I just filed my 2012 income tax return on my own! This is big! I’ve come a long way since 2007, when I leaped into the workforce at the age of 16. Like many 16 year olds, I was administered a uniform, a nametag, and the title of Cashier. And so it was, 2007, the first year I would have income to report. I didn’t even know what a T4 was when I received it in the mail.

          From 2007 to 2008, my slips were sent to someone, who, as if by magic (my parents paid her), returned a neat package containing pages of complex calculations that summed to free money for me! Yay! Oh, how little I knew about Canada and Ontario’s tax systems. I had no idea what taxes were. I didn’t know where the deductions from my pay were going (although much less clueless now, I still wonder about that). I definitely didn’t understand why I needed to report my income to the government each spring. What I did know was that it gave me some extra cash to spend! Despite my usual frugality, my theory was that my refund was an unexpected bonus, so I could use it as I pleased. I now know that getting a refund means that I was taxed at too high of a rate throughout the year, but I still love that refund!

          When it was time to file for the 2009 tax year, I decided to be a big girl and learn how to file my own tax returns, using tax software. Since I had no understanding of what I was doing or why I was doing it, I quickly became overwhelmed and promptly burst into tears. These tax tears resumed at 2010 and 2011 tax time. From 2009 to 2011, Olivia basically did my taxes.

          This year, on the quest for independence (which, I hear, is a key component of happiness), I vowed to myself that I would do my taxes without the assistance of anyone, except Google. Being so dependent on Olivia, who is amazing at everything you can possibly imagine, I have lost faith in my ability to do things for myself over the last four and a half years. As a part of my happiness experiment, I want to prove to myself that I am capable of successfully doing things independently. My 2012 tax return served as my first opportunity on the path to self-reliance, and I did it! After avoiding the dreaded task since early March, I finally locked myself in a room, strove to understand the process by reading instead of crying, used different tax software than I (Olivia) had tried in previous tax years (Maria + SimpleTax = *enormous heart*), and happily sent that return off to the Canada Revenue Agency!

          My excitement from the thrill of independence is more than matched by the surprising size of my refund. It is much more than I expected it to be this year! (I can hear the scowls of income tax sceptics.) I’ve decided that this money will be added to my dream fund, the bank account that will be housing my savings toward an extended trip to Europe!

          Before I saw the size of the refund, I was going to use this money to pay off the remaining half of my car insurance premium for the year. Then, I was going to put any leftover pennies toward my non-existent retirement savings (a topic for a post of its own). I’ve decided against these options. Every single tax refund I’ve had has slipped through my fingers. Remember, until this year, I didn’t truly know the meaning of a tax refund; it was a yearly bonus. Let’s be real, putting the money toward my annual car insurance premium, even with the intent to make saving money during the year easier, is spending my tax refund. Plain and simple. On the contrary, putting money away for retirement is probably one of the best things anyone can do with their refund. I am well aware that this is the most sensible, responsible option. I just don’t want to do it, and my happiness experiment says I don’t have to.

          Thus, I am putting the money toward a European adventure! The thought sparked an immediate feeling of happiness, blood-pumping, adrenaline-coursing-through-my-veins, can’t-sleep kind of happiness. I don’t get this feeling often. When I do, it’s almost always immediately followed by negative guilty thoughts (for thinking I could go after one thing when I should be working toward another) and hopelessness (because I know I’ll succumb to the guilt). I am so fucking sick of every choice I make coming down to: responsible or not responsible? From now on, the most important factor in my decision making process will be whether or not my choice brings me happiness, which is why I don’t feel guilty about saving the money for Europe. I previously defined failure to me as not striving to be happy, so this is a step in the right direction. The best part? It makes me hopeful! Seeing that lump sum in my dream fund will be a continuous reminder that I am taking action toward happiness. My motivation has been ignited. I actually believe in the possibility of making my own dream come true. The search for independence through tax filing is so empowering! I absolutely recommend it.

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