Just when most of us are becoming accustomed to marking dated items with 2014, the year just ended will be in all-too-sharp focus for a day or two in the coming weeks for most people. It's tax season and that means it's time to start at least thinking about those 2013 tax forms.
As usual, the deadline to file falls in mid-April, Tuesday, April 15. Starting about now as most people are receiving the W-2 forms that report annual income along with various other tax documents, the prospect of a day of navigating the twisted language of the instruction booklets looms large.
From time to time in this country, starting in the pre-Revolution era and continuing into the current crop of Tea Party activists, there are vocal and highly visible movements seeking to have taxes cut, or the tax code simplified. Their relative success is hard to gauge, though it's likely they have the effect of holding the apparatus of government in check when it comes to collecting money. As far as having the tax code simplified, a detailed reading of the 1040 instruction booklet in search of a clear answer is enough to spark at least a measure of revolutionary fervor in most taxpayers. The chore of completing the paperwork, however, can be so draining, about the only revolution for which energy remains is rolling over and taking a nap.
The degree to which the latest crop of tax-cutting advocates has success will be measured only in degrees. The reality is that for the living, the only things anyone absolutely has to do are die and pay taxes.
While the human condition affords no control over the former, the latter – paying taxes – is a mandate imposed by our fellow humans so the prospect of a world where taxes don't have to be paid is rather tempting. It is, however, unrealistic. Taxes may be cut, increased or modified in their collection, thanks to the efforts of civic-minded activists among us, but they have been a part of the human experience for thousands of years, and, barring a collapse in the apparatus of civilization, will be for the foreseeable future.
A measure of consolation is available for even those among us lacking in either the energy to tackle the paperwork of taxation (in and of itself, an institution every bit as irritating as having to pay) or the wherewithal to hire someone else to do the calculations. In Harford County, that consolation comes in the form of the annual AARP Tax-Aide program, which offers assistance to people whose incomes are classified as being in the low to middle levels, as well as folks 60 and older.
The official kickoff for the program was announced at the end of January, and it will be in operation at locations across the county, thanks to a joint effort involving AARP and the county government. Appointments can be made by calling 410-638-3425.
The likelihood of taxes being eliminated is remote at best, but the annual AARP Tax Aide effort at least helps take a little bit of the sting out of the process.