Kage Baker always regarded my yearly travail with the taxes as a sign of Goodies On The Way. The tax returns were ordinarily slated for something neat and much desired – and I usually managed to get us returns, too. Living in genteel poverty helped, and the fact that I never padded the deductions. If you spend most of the year living in a Spartan manner, you’re more likely to get a bit back at the end.
When Kage transferred successfully from the Pink Collar Salt Mines of office drudgery to the wild, free live of an independent writer, her deductions got more complicated. Those two or three times a year paychecks arrive with no taxes being taken out of them – many a new author comes to grief their first year or two, simply by actually spending what they make. This is where Kage’s system of Indulgence Queues came into play – we socked away a portion of every check toward the taxes, and she got to assign the rest to whatever her heart’s desire was at the time.
Home office deductions helped, as well. So did money spent on conventions, which she needed to attend; and magazine subscriptions that she needed for trade information and research. She learned to save receipts – granted, she stuffed them all into one pigeonhole in her desk and handed me the whole rat’s nest when I sat down to the taxes, but at least she saved them. There was a tangible reward for them, like the boxtops she saved up as child for a pair of boxing robots …
Consequently, she wanted me to do the taxes ASAP – as soon as all the W2’s and 1099’s came in. After all, there was usually a book, game or road trip waiting on the returns. I, on the other hand, in my peevish disinclination to be helpful to the IRS, liked to wait until the last minute. Even knowing they would give some of my money back was not entirely satisfying – the gummint doesn’t pay any interest on that 20% of your salary they take all year. And years when we owed (or Kage did; I never made enough, lol) there was that much less interest in sending them the check early.
We usually compromised. I did the taxes earlier than I wanted, not as early as Kage did. But she loyally nagged me into doing them, kept the coffee and sugar flowing during the ordeal, refrained from playing, say, Boris Gudenov, 12 times in a row: and had usually scheduled a visit to a yarn shop for me into the Goodies Waiting list.
This year, the tax deadline got extended – today is a holiday in Washington DC, in observance of Emancipation Day. And the weekend interferes with getting work done. The bottom line is that all us wage slaves have until April 18th to file our taxes this year. However, in my general confusion, I didn’t notice – so I did the taxes on the normal schedule. And here I could have spent the weekend cocking snooks at the Feds!
Oh, well. Kage would have sighed with relief to see me finish up early. Back before the ease of e-filing, we had many late night car trips to the Post Office – there to wait in the line of anxious, snarling drivers until we could inch up to the curb and hand over the precious completed forms to the weary postal workers … Kage, habitually riding shotgun, always apologized sincerely for the trouble when she gave them the envelopes.
And then we usually went and got Chinese food at a splendid restaurant on Highland (now Le Oriental Bistro, but still good food) and drove up to Muholland to park at the side of the road and look at the lights of L.A. Ah, eating chicken fried rice and mu goo gai pan in the dark on a warm spring midnight in the Hollywood Hills … that was our reward.