April 06, 2005

THAT TIME OF YEAR

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

In â??Life of Augustus,â?? Suetonius Tranquillis wrote that the Roman poet Virgil once held a funeral for a dead fly, complete with pall bearers and eulogies. In ancient Rome, cemetery land was not taxable. By interring a fly on the land surrounding his private villa, the shrewd poet turned his home into a burial ground, thus making it tax-exempt.Some things havenâ??t changed since the days of the Roman Empire. Tax time still inspires â??creativityâ?? on the part of some taxpayers, but more often, the impending annual deadline forces many of us to wade through mountains of receipts and forms from employers, banks and charities that have accumulated over the past 12 months. We scramble to locate bits of paper and forgotten envelopes set aside in a pile somewhere â??for tax time.â?? Whether you send your taxes to an accountant or do them yourself, the effort is monumental and, when complete, something to be proud of considering the dizzying number of regulations, forms and worksheets.As of March 25, 73.8 million tax returns had been filed. If you are one of the tens of millions remaining who have put off the inevitable, here are tips that may simplify the process.-Gather together all materials you need before you start filling out forms. This includes W-2s, 1099s (interest income and miscellaneous payment for services), receipts for charitable contributions, and other records of income and outlay.-MAKE COPIES OF EVERYTHING YOU SUBMIT. Unless there is a suspicion of tax fraud, the IRS has up to three years to decide to audit a tax return. Additionally, tax returns represent a significant effort on your part to account for your personal finances. This information can be quite useful in future years. For example, if you elect to depreciate rental property, these copies will be a good record of the base you used to depreciate the property. -If you discover an error once youâ??ve submitted your return, donâ??t worry, youâ??re not the first! You can submit an amended return called a 1040X. -If you owe money and canâ??t pay by April 15, file your return or extension along with Form 9465, which allows you to propose your own repayment terms provided you owe less than $10,000 and can repay it in 36 months or less. -Plan for next year. Review the instruction book that accompanies the forms. You may discover valuable tax exemptions that you can plan for your 2005 filing. If you have a small business, especially out of your own home, there are many places to recoup expenses and reduce your overall tax burden. Keep the documents together (in a fire-proof safe) and next year, the task may seem less daunting.If you have questions about anything related to filing your taxes, the IRS provides information at www.irs.gov, or can be reached at its tax assistance line at 1-800-829-1040. Taxes are serious business, but keep your sense of humor throughout the process. With this in mind, I leave you with another story from a while back.For years the Athenian statesman Themistocles had alienated allies of Athens by extorting money. Despite this, he sent a heavily-armed naval fleet to the Andrian islands with a demand to pay him even more."I come with two gods," he told the islanders, "Persuasion and Compulsion."The islanders replied that they already had two great gods who hindered them from giving Themistocles more money --"Penury and Despair."WORD COUNT: 597