Burdens of adulthood: An introduction to doing your taxes

“I hate doing my taxes,” said the Egyptian citizen, having lived over 5,000 years ago. 

Taxes have been around seemingly as long as human societies have been around with paintings and writings depicting taxation all the way back to the ancient Sumerians, before currency was widely used and payment was made with cattle and grain.

You might find yourself asking then, “if taxes have existed for so long, then why do I literally know nothing about it?” Oh, you’re not asking that? Just me I guess.

It can be overwhelming to try and begin your taxes on your own but gathering information is a good first start. If you don’t make any money and didn’t have a job this year then you luckily, or unluckily depending on the circumstances, don’t have to do your taxes. Hurray!

If you do have a job then you can expect your employer to send you paperwork in the mail or online. Those papers could include a W-2,1098-T, 1099-DV, etc. Other than your paperwork you’ll also need your Social Security Number so be sure to bring it if you plan on getting help filing your taxes. The W-2 is one of the most common forms you’ll get which just shows an employee’s wage and what was withheld. Forms like 1098-T are for students which record payments of tuition. All of these forms might have strange legal names, but with a quick google search you can figure out what you have in your hands pretty easily. But if you need help there are always places and people to turn to.

You can find accurate and helpful information at places like he Oregon Department of Revenue’s website (oregon.gov/dor) and even the dreaded IRS website (irs.gov), has both helpful documents and videos that are all designed to try and make it as easy for people to give the government their money as possible. For OSU students like ourselves we can also make appointments with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) which are made up of staff and students that can help you if you need it. Try to make an appointment soon though, because they fill out fast.

“Anyone who is confused is more than welcome to come to Austin Hall room 100 April 6 and 13 from 5:45 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., or April 8 and 15 from 12:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.,” said Nathaniel McKay, the OSU VITA site coordinator. “VITA is currently fully booked but we do our best to prepare drop-in taxes when we are available. Otherwise, I am happy to answer any general questions via email at, [email protected]. I’m unable to give tax advice but I’m always happy to point someone in the right direction with general questions”.

Taxes are a fact of life. Whether you are rich or poor taxes are generally feared and frowned upon. But why are taxes just so hard?

“This is one of my controversial opinions,” McKay said. “I don’t think taxes are ‘hard.’ I believe we do them so infrequently that we always remain oblivious to how they are done. It’s kind of like resetting your oven clock when your power goes out or after daylight savings time; you never remember how to do it until after you’ve completed the task. 

According to McKay, there’s several softwares out there that can help walk people through their taxes that I don’t believe a class is needed anymore. You can file your taxes through Cash App, Turbo Tax, Free Tax USA, etc. and end up with an accurate tax filing.

People just don’t usually like doing math and staring at lots of paragraphs of small print that all are centered around a feeling of losing money. Tax collectors were often as vilified and hated by their community as prostitutes and executioners were. If you don’t like what the taxes are actually being used for, this feeling can just compound. 

Growing up in all the haze and controversy of taxes as well as rarely ever filing your own taxes does create a big unknown.

Why teach kids about taxes when they aren’t going to be filing them for multiple years? Why should you learn and remember tax information if you only need it once a year? Why should I even stress about figuring out the specific amount I owe the IRS if they already have access to that information? The questions just keep piling up drowning any who dare to venture into this world. The fear of messing up and failing seems hard to escape.

“It is totally normal to be scared about doing your taxes,” said Clarissa Adams, an accounting student and vice president of BAP Media and Technology. “It’s normal to be concerned about having to pay a lot of taxes or not getting your proper refund. You should definitely work on your taxes before Tax Day so you can get help if you need it and then you won’t have to pay a late filing fee. If you are just a normal citizen, and you try to file your taxes on time, you won’t face anything bad if you make a mistake on your tax return.”

Supreme Court Member Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization,” while he served on the court a hundred years ago between 1902-1932. But, the sad fact still remains that taxes are here to stay and we’ll all eventually either have to learn how to live with them or learn to live without them; probably off the grid, isolated from civilized society, in a cabin hidden in the mountains… basically living the dream.

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