Thursday, February 7, 2008

That was Easy!

I'll never forget the first time I used a CPA to file our taxes - It was both the scariest and best decision I ever made. Best, because the refund we got that year was the largest since we began filing, and the scariest because it cost a fortune!

No, really. This is how it went... I met this wonderful woman through the nursing registry I worked for in Carmel Valley - she was the business owner's friend and CPA. So when tax time rolled around it seemed like a no-brainer to ask if she would do our taxes. Especially since our butts were still a bit raw from the nasty, nasty audit-reaming we took the year before and the fact that we'd just bought a house. Plus, I worked from home most of the year after the boss died and this CPA and his lawyer moved all the office staff into home offices. Oh, in case you didn't know... The IRS only sounds like its this far-away entity that and can't hurt you; the truth is they can show up in your backyard quicker than you can say, Indiana Jones. Any way, the last thing I wanted to do was go another round with a soul-less IRS auditor and as new homeowners I decided it was time to grow up and hire a CPA.

So this wonderful dynamo of a woman, all of 4-feet tall, agreed to do our taxes. A few weeks after I dropped everything off at her darling little office in Carmel she called to say our returns were ready to be picked up. I was eager to see what she was able to do for us, but because I was at work and couldn't get to her office before she closed I called my dad. Dad was in Carmel so I thought it would be great if he would pick up our return and pay her for me and then I could see him later to settle up.

That was the plan... However, about an hour after I got the call from the CPA, my dad called to say he really wished I'd let him know he had to go to the bank to pay my bill before he made the trip over to see her... Dad was all fired up about having to find parking spaces in Carmel three times that afternoon. He said he had to find a spot at her office, then find another spot in front of Wells Fargo and then find another spot when he went back to her office. If you've never been to Carmel on a busy week-day afternoon you can't understand this, but just trust me, Dad was none too happy about this! But while he's on about the parking I'm still on the fact that he had to go to the bank, so I took a breath and asked the question... "Don't you usually have a couple hundred dollars on you, dad?" And dad says, "Well, yeah, Janet, I've got about $220 on me, but your bill was $1,200 and I didn't have my checkbook in the truck."

WHAT? Twelve hundred dollars?

Without skipping a beat Dad says, "you do know this woman does taxes for Clint Eastwood and Doris Day, right?, and I'm sure they have no problem with her bill but what are you doing there?" At that moment I wasn't quite sure either, and I will never forget the sting I felt as my blood ran cold on the thought about how I was going to materialize $1,200.00 by the time I got to my parents' house to pick up my taxes that evening. Oh, I heard him right but I asked again just for fun, and the bill was still a little over $1,200.00 and the CPA had told dad it was due immediately.

Of course my dad said it wasn't a problem - aside from his parking adventures, Dad was happy to run down to Wells Fargo to get her money, but WAIT! I was having a big problem with it... As nice as my dad was about paying it, I was just stunned at the bill and couldn't help but wonder why it wasn't more reasonable - but what is reasonable, really? I'd never hired a CPA before and I already knew rent in Carmel wasn't cheap! But couldn't I get an employee discount since she knew I worked for her good, albeit dead friend and client?

The bill aside, I didn't want to borrow this money from my dad! So I called my wonderful CPA - First, to apologize to her for not asking about her fees upfront (last time I made that mistake) and second, to ask that she tear up my dad's counter check.

Sensing how distraught I was over her bill, my CPA softly asked me if it would help me to know that in total I would be receiving a little over $7,800 between our State and Federal return refunds. I told her that was fantastic, of course, but I still couldn't take $1,200 from my dad. Dad yes, but I'd never hear the end of this from my mother. So she ripped up dad's check and I paid her the same day our refund arrived. And then we went to Disneyland!

After that memorable first time in 1995, this same CPA continued to process returns for us for seven years and each year her bill nudged the $1,200 mark. But in 2001 I discovered Turbo Tax and with it, I retired my Carmel CPA and her invoices.

Things have gone just great since then too... Each year I buy Turbo Tax with the half-price coupon Costco sends me in the mail after the first of January, and this year was no different - But instead of tearing into the box and doing my taxes right away, this year I began to panic a little because I knew our return would be more involved for 07. Mainly because the hub's company closed their offices in our area so he's working from home now and he has to use his personal truck for work. Plus there's investment shuffling I did last year and we have the Brandon at University so there's all the money we paid that goes along with having him at ASU.

So I didn't open the box at all and I almost looked up CPA in the phone book, but before I could get to it I heard a commercial on the radio Monday about Turbo Tax Pro - A service Turbo Tax offers on-line whereby you can hand everything over to a professional tax preparer for only $129.99. Sounds too good to be true, right? I know, I thought so too... But it worked way better than I expected, so well in fact... you might just find me at Disneyland this year!

I faxed all of my documents Monday evening. On Tuesday morning my personal tax preparer called me at work to go over everything, and this afternoon she called to say our returns are available on-line for review! Also included in the $129.99 fee is audit defense (score!) and electronic filing. Wow!
My preparer was able to maximize the home office deduction, hub's unreimbursed employee expenses, and she got us a credit on the ASU expenses for Brandon. And, she was nice to me too!

I recommend you check out Turbo Tax - on line you'll find them at, No darling little Carmel office but I know they have a program to fit you too and it won't cost you $1,200.00 - I promise!

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