Taxes: A Rant

Yesterday I was up to my eyebrows in getting stuff done, and pretty much collapsed afterward. So I’m improvising here. Hopefully this may be useful to other people. If only as a Bad Example to take a lesson from.

Taxes are a headache. I think we can all agree on that. What’s worse is when they’re not even your taxes.

You find all kinds of things when you have to take over someone else’s paperwork. Many of them things you really, really never wanted to know about. Without going into personal details, I’m going to hit a few things that people may want to think about In Case of Unexpected Responsibilities.

First, IDs. If you go to a tax preparer for someone else’s stuff, along with other legal paperwork that essentially says “I have seen an attorney with X and have X’s permission to do this,” they’re also going to want a photo ID from the person you’re doing the stuff for.

…This can be an unpleasant surprise when the Department of Motor Vehicles demanded X’s driver’s license back months ago because X was medically no longer fit to drive. And if X is currently in no condition to get any other ID, well. You have a Problem.

Second, withholding. If someone didn’t set that up in advance, you’ll have a devil of a time fixing it later. And – this is the really tricky part – because of the change in living circumstances for someone moving into a care facility, their taxable income can actually go up. To the point they jump into the bracket where the IRS starts getting cranky about not getting part of their taxes during the year. *Headdesks* I’m going to see what I can do about that for next year, which is going to take oh so many phonecalls….

Third, and this relates to the above, no matter how many things you get done and out of the way, people will be demanding why you haven’t also done W, Y, and Z already. The honest claim that you didn’t even realize these existed, much less were supposed to be your problem, will cut no ice with anyone. Personally I’ve been at this five months straight and every time we think we can take a breather more comes up. Next week will, among other things, include pre-planning stuff with a funeral home because someone called us at 1:30 in the morning last week with “oh, there’s a health crisis and you don’t have this on record yet, you’d better do that, by the way I’m on my way out the door….”

Sometimes I just hate people.

(Watched The Meg this afternoon after we got that set of taxes officially done. Shark movie seemed appropriate.)

Ahem. Anyway. So. These are some details people may want to think about for your relatives. Or yourself, so your nearest and dearest don’t end up run off their feet for potentially years trying to clean up everything!

29 thoughts on “Taxes: A Rant

  1. Oh, dear.

    In the first place– the tax preparer should have the list of items that are allowable as proof of identity that don’t involve a photograph.
    Because, seriously, what good does a picture do? “Gosh, that sure LOOKS like someone you would have power of attorney to do the taxes for!” *facepalm*

    For the rest of it– the 1:30AM call was probably partly because someone screwed up and *didn’t* mention the funeral prep during check-in. Kind of like how you give a list of doctors and stuff when you go to the dentist.

    More in general: Ooof. That sucks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There was no listed form of ID that didn’t involve a photograph. Nada.

      Care center mentioned funerals, said they’d send a list, never did, we were up to our eyebrows in everything else and still waiting for said list when the phone call came.

      That said, the phone call happened because 1) apparently a substitute person who didn’t realize patients can be deceptive, and 2) someone was faking being on death’s door. (And admitted it when asked point-blank later that morning.)

      If you’re familiar with the trope Cold Equations, that’s what I had to run that morning: no one had had more than 3 hours of sleep, the drive is hazardous at the best of times and it was 1:30 in the morning and socked in fog. So I made the decision not to have multiple fatalities.

      And then the moment we could call in the morning the staff was very confused – and then scrambling like mad – because X was just fine and dandy.

      Sometimes I really hate people.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Everyone hates The Cold Equations. IIRC, there were contests about who could come up with the most elegant way of keeping everyone alive and intact. (Before my time, though.)

        Texas has ‘state IDs’ that are shaped like Driver’s Licenses, but are just government-issued photo ID. I take it that’s not an option in Florida?

        Have you considered writing an ‘everything that the government will do to make the end of life harder and how to navigate the red tape’ book? I can see that being useful.


        Liked by 2 people

      2. a) Probably couldn’t do a good job of covering all contingencies for all legal environments. The individual variations are kinda lawyer bread and butter.
        b) That notion that came out of the last bout of these discussions? This girl was bouncing between Earths when she got sick. Then she wound up videogame isekaied, with eleven others, into the middle of her previous adoptive father’s estate after his passing. His funhouse dungeon estate, because that is the custom for wizards. Her adoptive father’s friend is a wizard and a lawyer, because I wanted a soft landing before the backlogged messes get into hard mode. (I’ve been reading, and there were some examples of mathematical innovators who were also lawyers.)
        c) I liked the Cold Equations. Sure, super contrived. “The physics does not care” greatly resonates with me. And that is a genuinely hard resonance to establish as the core of a story for a wide audience.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. The problem with The Cold Equations was that the degree of contrivances completely undermines the “physics doesn’t care” story, because physics is descriptive of “what the observed limitations of reality are”, while the whole premise of the story revolves around everything _but_ reality messing up. Every step of the way through the story, the problems are not with “this is a physical limitation”, but instead “this is an idiot ball”, “this is human law”, “this is corporate greed”, “this is incompetence”, “this is everything except reality itself”. It’s kinda like the difference between a story of “random tornado out of nowhere causes destruction” vs “we have a flood here every year, and every year it washes this town away, and they still haven’t bothered to build a dike”. The first is “the weather doesn’t care”, the second is “people are lazy and hold the idiot ball when they should know better”. There are plenty of ways The Cold Equations _could_ have been written that’d actually do what you’re praising it for, but the way it was written actively undermines that message.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think you mean, that it is praised for; she just mentioned the trope.

        The way I think of it is– you can see the strings.

        In fairness, a lot of the old scifi was barely disguised Point with some character names– almost a parable that was embarrassed to be identified– but good heavens.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah, I was responding to Bob. And also yeah, that does describe a lot of old SF (and a lot of new SF, for that matter, tho in some ways the newer stuff is better disguised, sometimes). And I don’t have a problem with blatant “this is making a point” stories, per-se, the problem I have is when they claim to be making a point, but the way they’re contrived requires undermining the point they’re trying to make.


      6. I get the argument that the level of contrivance undermines the point.

        It may be more accurate to describe what I was trying to say as ‘praise what it was trying to do’. I don’t think I was anywhere near irritated enough to go “No, I’m praising it, and going to defend the position”.

        You can make the point that ‘the physics does not care’ in a bunch of engineering case studies, including catastrophic failures and serious design oversights.

        Kipling made the point wonderfully a time or two. Or at least, I recall getting that from Hymn of Breaking Strain. How else would you read the lines in Secret of the Machines around “we are not built to comprehend a lie”?

        You can make an more ambiguous case of ‘reality does not care’ by digging into some of the historical monstrously insane failures of management. A more ambiguous case, because anything with measuring humans is seriously difficult, and the most incomprehensible mechanical failure is straightforward and explicable in comparison.

        Making that case as the core of a short story is seriously difficult. The attempt was worth making, even if that attempt was a failure, even if you can point to a bunch of better successes. And it is not clear to me that it is easy write a short story that makes that point, and is accessible to a large audience that isn’t engineers.

        And, frankly, it worked for me the first time I read it. I was much less aware of storytelling contrivance back then, and cared less. Also, I was already in the habit of carefully suspending my disbelief with mecha, and Cold Equations is no sillier than many other things that I have enjoyed.

        Also, a lot of the stuff I try to write is extremely silly. (I still have the notes for a long Eva fic that ends with a giant naked tang cloud physically transforming everyone into Rei Ayanami, and the head of the NRA shouting out Heston’s line from the statue of Liberty scene in Planet of the Apes. Whole point was setting up a situation where that made sense, and having a logically supported epilogue where things are quite survivable for humanity without taking any events back.)

        There may well be a day where I’ve become so successful at writing short stories that make the point that the physics doesn’t care that I will have no regard for the Cold Equations as anything but inspiration. Until that day…

        I’m not even sure I would like it if I reread it.

        There’s no disputing taste, and people definitely have grounds not to like it.


      7. It’s not so much the degree of contrivance, as the type of contrivance. Looking at a real world example, it’d be like trying to use the story of United Airlines Flight 232 as a lesson that “this particular design of airplane is bad”, when it’s actually an example of “human corruption and coverups and turf-wars and pride caused this, the design is normally perfectly fine when the maintenance rules are actually followed”. Because people really did try using it to claim the airplane design itself was bad (yes, there were some parts of the design that could have been better, but that’s why they had maintenance rules for it, even before something went wrong). But what made that crash into such a disaster was a chain of “humans not only messed up, and not by accident but by purposely doing stuff wrong, they also tried to cover it up afterward in ways that made stuff worse, and then when some people could have fixed stuff, they were actively prevented from doing so by others”.

        Compare that to even, say, the sinking of the Titanic. Yes, there were some problems involving human error with the Titanic. However, the more significant problems were ones that the humans of the time hadn’t known (things like the sulfur content of the hull metal making it more brittle) or hadn’t been able to account for. A case where, while in hindsight we can say “they should have done X, Y, or Z”, we can also admit that they couldn’t have known making it a case of “reality doesn’t care”, rather than “you actively and knowingly did wrong”.

        You see what I mean there about the details being counter to the lesson being more important than the mere quantity of details?

        And for an explicitly didactic short-story, I’m perfectly willing to expect and accept some contrivance for the sake of cutting to the important details, so long as it actually goes and handles the important details without contradicting itself.


      8. Heh, and now some more human error. I knew something looked wrong when I looked up the particular flight to name. I meant Japan Airlines Flight 123, but just took the first option google found for the search terms I was using.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. ‘The type of contrivance screws up the merits of the story’ is perhaps an engineer level analysis.

        If you study it carefully, and apply the knowledge an engineer might have about how easily prevented certain issues are, it falls apart.

        Imagine a reader that does not automatically and reflexively evaluate every detail as would an engineer. Perhaps that reader never learned how to think as an engineer, or perhaps they have to work to think that way. Or perhaps they had received a traumatic brain injury.

        I do not remember when I read Cold Equations. It may well have been during a time in my life when my brain basically did not work. Sometimes I turn my brain off to enjoy the story. Sometimes the pacing is so good that I do not care.

        If a reader cannot evaluate how easily the event could be prevented, but can follow the described events, they can get the intended point of the story without being thrown out by the contrivances. Yes, maybe few people that stupid have a taste for ‘physics does not care’.

        The details that don’t add up are great when discussing your experience.

        When it is in the form “but the point doesn’t actually work because…” it can be heard as a commentary on someone else’s experience. Who may have been brain dead, be an idiot, or simply alien and making use of suspension of disbelief.


      10. Bob. You just said, in a longer format, “it doesn’t matter if the story made any sense, even when the entire point was that it is absolutely rational.”

        It’s fine if you enjoyed it, anyways, that enjoyment doesn’t change that the reaction is emotional, and objecting to being obviously manipulated for an emotional effect is legitimate.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. I got to concede those points about my statements and how they can be understood.

        Getting ticked off at the emotional manipulation is entirely legitimate.


  2. I will note the cold equations had to be rewritten quite a few times because people kept figuring out ways to save the girl and the editor insisted that it should be ended with the death. So a lot of the contrivences are in there for that.

    Also, working on it when they are in good condition isn’t much easier, from current experience.


      1. People really hate it when you tell them the problem is solved if you just kill the problem setter.

        Theoretically, of course.

        Admittedly, “And then I kill you and save everyone!” is not the most reassuring solution….

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I am totally stealing that one.
        “I kill whoever is making it so that the only action I can take to save those folks is to flip a switch, and then set about trying to save them.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Taxes can be quite the headache.

    My mom does tax preparation for HR Block and frequently runs into headaches caused by government red-tape or corporate nonsense (the owner of the specific franchise she works for is a good egg and sensible – anything dumb is tends be either government or HR Block corporate’s idea). The ID thing is one of those set by the aforementioned parties and is therefore one of those things that the tax preparer can’t do anything because they didn’t make the rules and more importantly they cannot change them – largely because the only thing harder than getting an idea into government bureaucracy or a big corporations’ heads is getting one back out..

    “Compassion is rescuing a kid from a river. Justice is walking upriver with a shotgun to find out who’s throwing our kids in the river.”

    Ah, The Sanzo Method . . . .

    (Okay, he has a revolver, not a shotgun but the point stands. Through this may be influenced by the fact that I just re-read Entanglements . ..)

    Liked by 1 person

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