A couple of weeks ago, I started stressing out because 2011 was a busy and fiscally crazy year for me. I was a freelance producer at an ad agency helping rollout a global CMS for a Fortune 500 company, while at the same time producing a comedy show in NYC and another stage production on Cape Cod. I had hotels, tickets, mileage, losses, gains, and fading receipts spilling out of every drawer in my desk. I decided I might actually need an accountant for the first time in my life. But my life experience left me completely at a loss.
My family never used accountants. My Dad performed his own calculations scribbled on yellow legal pads whose perforated pages were always spread out atop the dining room table. Tax calculation was something he took pride in, like driving around in his 1978 Plymouth Volare without a muffler. Yes. He did this.
My Dad was retired with two families, paid alimony to his ex-wife and was supporting a stepdaughter as well. Don’t ask. Pensions, dividends, interest and even the selling of fresh vegetables on the side of the road composed his complicated income. Yes. He sold vegetables by the side of the road. Don’t ask.
Every year in January he would go to the post office and grab the new tax forms to be filled out by April 15th. I kid you not; he spent from January to April on his taxes. The family would be banned from the dining room where he hunkered down day after day trying to make sense of all the schedules and forms he needed to fill out.
And I remember one particularly bad year when, after all his labor, he received a letter from the IRS stating that his calculations were wrong and he owed more money.
Compared to what my Dad dealt with, I’ve always felt I’ve been running a lemonade stand with a bunch of spare change to count. But before my current situation, there was TurboTax. It was easy: a paint-by-numbers way of doing my taxes. In fact, I’ve always felt it was too easy, the equivalent of the Microsoft Paperclip leading you through very important paperwork. “Looks like you may get audited – would you like to add that deduction?”
Having no prior experience with these people called accountants, I briefly thought of walking into an H&R Block with my bag of paper – but I had a queasy feeling that they may be the McDonalds of tax returns. And I don’t like fast food.
Enter social media: a place where you no longer feel lost about anything. This includes income taxes. I typed into my Facebook status the need for a reliable, reasonable accountant with experience in tax returns for contractors, and within 5 minutes, my friends filled the comment stream with dozens of references. It couldn’t have been easier to find my guy. Yes. It was almost quicker than asking Siri for an accountant.
By now my guy has finished my income taxes and his work looks pretty good – lots of numbers in lots of boxes. But I am sure there are many last minute filers who will be up late tonight, like my Dad was, trying to fill in schedules and forms, performing endless calculations in a desperate attempt get their return out the door with some degree of accuracy.
So, for all you last minute filers, fear not! This year social media is playing an important part in providing taxpayers with the crucial help we need. Professionals are out there, and you may even find one who’ll make a house-call tonight!
Information on income tax preparation and filing can now be found on social media networks such as Twitter, Google News Search, and YouTube. In case you haven’t found it, here are links to some possible resources on the eve of the deadline. I did this. You can do it too.
http://www.facebook.com/taxgirl is the Facebook page of Kelly Phillips Erb, or Taxgirl, as she is known. She writes for the tax blog on forbes.com. Her updates are full of relevant information, especially this time of the year.
The IRS, amazingly enough, has a YouTube channel dedicated to helpful tax information. Go to http://www.youtube.com/irsvideos to view hundreds of videos on various subjects.
Once you file, the IRS has a smartphone app that helps keep track of your refund status and other tax information. IRS2Go is available for both iPhone and Android operating systems.