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April 15 a festival for deadlines

Posted: April 9, 2011 - 4:32pm

April 15 is fast approaching — beware! Signs of spring surround us — birds singing in the trees, a flash of yellow in the woods as the skunk cabbage pops up, evening daylight at long last. But our hearts are heavy — we can’t fully appreciate these wonders of spring. We cringe in anxious anticipation of April 15, that infamous day we all dread — the day we have to take off our studded tires. Oh, yeah, it’s Tax Day too. What a coincidence.

Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with multi-tasking, but I’m thinking they could have chosen a different day for taking off the tires. We’re kinda busy right now. Sure, I could have done my taxes a couple months ago, in some alternate reality where I deal with things efficiently and on time. But I’m a card-carrying member of Procrastinators Anonymous, or I will be when I get around to joining, and I don’t understand the concept of “early.” I know I’m not the only one, either. When I lived in Anchorage, I discovered a post office at the airport that stayed open all night. There was always a line at midnight on April 15, and yes, I was in it, biting my nails, hoping to get that all-important postmark before the clock struck 12.

Seriously, tax time is no fun if you send in your forms early. (Did I just use “tax” and “fun” in the same sentence?) You miss out on the drama, the camaraderie of people stuck in the same predicament. Sure, you get to lord it over the rest of us in the smug knowledge that your work is done. You can enjoy the fruits of your labors, as you spend your tax return the rest of us haven’t even calculated yet. But you must pay the cost. You forfeit that wild sense of accomplishment when you pull off the impossible at the last possible moment.

True, some people choose when to file their taxes based on whether or not they’re getting a refund. If the government owes you money, why not get it as quickly as possible? But if you owe the government, there’s no point in paying even one day sooner than you have to. Those are the only options — you either get a refund, or you have to pay. Unless, of course, you’re a whiz at those spreadsheets and you’ve got it figured out down to the penny. If you can do that, I’m guessing that you’re not under the gun to finish your return on time. But if you do leave your calculations to the last minute, be prepared to sweat. It’s like the lady or the tiger. Door No. 1, you get lots of money in the mail. Door No. 2, you write a big fat check to Uncle Sam, and pinch your pennies for the rest of the month. Which is it this year?

As Tax Day approaches, a word to the wise. If you do wait until the last possible moment, take care to know how many moments you will need to do the deed. The IRS estimates an average of 18 hours to file your tax return. You can’t really start after dinner on April 15 and expect to be in that line at the post office at midnight. Of course, you could always file for an extension, but that’s cheating. According to the time-honored rules of procrastination, you must eventually finish the project, in a spectacular display of last-minute scrambling, by the appointed deadline. Extending the deadline changes the rules — it’s simply not an option.

Except for this year. Here’s a little known fact — Tax Day has migrated to April 18 this year. Turns out April 15 was already taken to celebrate Emancipation Day, when Washington, D.C. commemorates Lincoln freeing slaves in the District. With the federal government shut down, us procrastinators get a few days of grace. Thanks guys!

Anyway, it’s probably time to get started. Gather up your forms and receipts, put on some inspiring music, and just do it. When you’re done, you can enjoy spring with a clear conscience. But not really — you still have to get those studded tires off.

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