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How To Avoid Getting Burned By Your Own Tax Return

Wayne M. Davies
by Wayne M. Davies

I did it. I finally did it.

Last weekend, while the rest of Fort Wayne celebrated the long-awaited onset of springtime temperatures, I stayed inside and did something I’ve never done before.

I burned my first CD.

Yep, I joined the Pepsi generation and got me a real CD-RW drive. And I actually copied a music CD onto a blank CD (my wife’s favorite Eric Clapton CD — so now she’s got one for home and one for the van; guess I better burn another one so she can listen to it at work, too.)

But it wasn’t easy, let me tell ya!

If fact, I didn’t think it would ever happen.

Why? Because when it comes to computers, I ain’t the most proficient guy in the world. I know how to use my accounting and tax software, and I can peck away at a word processor with the best of them, but hardware? I’m clueless, man, absolutely clueless.

To me, RAM is an animal, the mascot for a pro football team that used to play in L.A. and then moved to St. Louis.

But my wife and kids have been pestering me for months to get a CD-RW so we can make our own music CD’s. So last week I finally gave in and ventured out to my local discount electronics store.

And there they were, lined up on the shelf, all 28 different models.

I picked up one of the boxes and looked at the “specs”. The first label that caught my eye was called “Disc Formats”: CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM (mode 1 and mode 2), CD-ROM XA (mode2, form 1 and form2), CD-DA, Bootable CD, Photo CD (single and multi-sessions), Video CD, CD-Extra, Mixed mode CD, CD-text.

I suddenly felt the beginnings of a headache.

I know enough about hardware to know that you’ve got to make sure a new piece of hardware is compatible with your existing hardware.

Ah, yes, the “interface”, gotta make sure that’s right!

So I looked at the box where is said “E-IDE/ATAPI”.

Now my stomach didn’t feel so good either.

Finally, I turned the box over and found what I was looking for, “System Requirements”: IBM PC Pentium 200MHz or higher; 64MB DRAM, 1 GB for image recording, 150MB free HD space for installing writing software.

I no longer had a headache. I had a migraine.

Enough was enough. I left the store and came home empty- handed. I was in over my head, and it was time to admit it.

While driving home I suddenly realized something.

What I just experienced is exactly what most people experience as they sit down to prepare their tax return each year. All those forms, schedules and worksheets, each with their own set of unique codes and convoluted calculations.

Forms, forms and more forms. They might as well be written in Greek.

For some people, mostly folks with “regular” day jobs and simple W2’s, doing your own tax return can be a relatively painless process (particularly if you don’t itemize deductions and have no investment income).

And with the proliferation of user-friendly tax preparation software programs, I’m sure millions of returns are filed by do-it-yourself-er’s without a hitch.

But if you’re self-employed or own your own business, and you’re new to the world of taxes, well, I’ve got news for you — be prepared to go through exactly what I went through at Best Buy — lots of pain, agony and frustration.

And be ready to “give up” and do what I eventually did — call a professional.

For me, that meant giving my friend George a call. George is a client who also happens to be a “computer guy” with all the latest gizmos and gadgets known to mankind.

George was very happy to help me out. He told me exactly what kind of CD drive to get, and then he came over to the house and installed the thing in 15 minutes! I couldn’t believe it! Then he installed some software, spent 10 minutes showing me how to use it, and the next thing I know, I’m burning a CD like I’ve been doing it all my life.

If you are a small business owner or self-employed person and you’re trying to prepare you own return this year, how’s it going?

Do you think you did OK? Or are you getting by on trial and error with a dose of prayer mixed in (“Please, God, please don’t let me get audited!”)

Maybe it’s time you did what I did.

By George, call a professional.

If you’re in over your head, admit it, and get some help. Visit your local tax professional today!

Copyright 2003 Wayne M. Davies Inc.

Author Bio

Wayne M. Davies is author of the eBook, “The Tax Reduction Toolkit: 29 Little-Known Legal Loopholes That Will Reduce Your Taxes By Thousands (For Small Business Owners and Self-Employed People Only!)”. Don’t file another tax return until you visit The Tax Reduction Toolkit, part of the Ultimate Tax Reduction Guide.

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