Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Down to Brass Tax

Tax season is approaching. W-2 forms and other tax related things have been arriving in my mailbox. As every year at this point, I reflect on how much I enjoy doing my taxes.

I know that taxes are traditionally a headache for most people. I can certainly understand that. However, since I don't itemize deductions (last time I tried, the standard deduction worked out to be more appropriate), and I don't have a fantastically large income (which keeps all calculations simple), I enjoy putting all the numbers in their proper places.

However, as a musician currently cobbling together varied income sources, sooner or later I'm going to want to keep track of expenses related to running my "business." Things like music, repairs, and maintenance items can all be written off, as can more nitpicky things like mileage to and from destinations, and parking fees when I arrive.

I came to realize it was a mistake to put off thinking about this until I had *a* job, in the sense that I work on one job. That's not the life I lead, so I needed to come to turns with the fact that the three jobs I currently work need to be treated as part of a single whole: a business whose end goal is to support me.

A few years ago, I knew a family who "incorporated" as a company to allow themselves tax breaks on all sorts of things. At the time (and because of my other concerns about their attitudes), I wrote it off as some sort of quasi-legal attempt to dodge taxes. With the benefit of some elapsed time and more financial savvy, I see that the concept does have its good points. I still feel slightly shady about that particular family, however.

As much as I love order and logical thinking, there are some calculating husband/wife teams that leave me cold. When I worked at a local cafe, a particular pair was always bringing clients in for meals and coffee. They basked in the false sacrifice of always picking up the tab, because they treated it all as business. Behind all the friendliness and largess, they'd always ask for a second copy of the receipt and file it in an organizer.

This isn't horrible behavior, as it's part of corporate life. But because the husband/wife were parading with such false charity (and possibly also because they were pushy real estate agents), it felt shallow. I felt rather like I had been given glasses which, through the polarity of the lens, allowed me to see more clearly. Perhaps it was because they'd come in on the weekends and chat two other couples for fun, but mention something about houses and write it off.

Business as usual?

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