taxes! (shudder)

JJ, my husband, is a pastor.  He is a phenomenal pastor.  I love being his wife, and I love the fact that I can ask him a deep theological question any time of day.  I REALLY like that. 😉

But there is one part of our life that is greatly affected by him being a pastor that I could live without.  That is — taxes.

Because he is a pastor, what the IRS deems a “minister of the gospel,” he falls into the self-employed tax category.  WHY this is I have no idea.  He IS employed!  By our church!  But the IRS doesn’t see it that way and says he is “self-employed.”

Sigh.  Okay.

For those of you who are NOT self-employed, let me share with you the fact that you have to save EVERY SINGLE RECEIPT when you are self-employed.  Many things can be considered business expenses, and can thereby have an effect on your taxes.

JJ’s first year in the ministry, we used Turbo Tax to do our taxes.  When we saw how much we owed the IRS using Turbo Tax, we realized that we had literally almost gone broke.  JJ talked to his district president, saying “What do I do?  I can’t afford to be a pastor!”  Thankfully, his DP gave him the name of an accountant in So. Cal. who is a former LC-MS pastor who now only does taxes for members of the clergy.  He knows the in’s and out’s of pastor taxes, and he was able to help us out a great deal.  We no longer go broke every year paying our taxes.

BUT, it’s still a lot of work to keep track of all the receipts and the mileage and the mileage to doctor’s visits, and pretty much everything else monetarily in our lives.  I am the one who has taken on this responsibility of our finances.  It’s not that JJ and I don’t talk about money; we do.  But when it comes down to the nitty gritty of paying bills on time, balancing the checkbook, and assembling everything together for taxes, that task is mine.

I used to not mind doing it.  I kind of liked it, especially keeping the checkbook balanced!  But, once children arrived, keeping on top of things got pushed aside, and stuff piled up.  Bills still got paid on time (for the most part; a few slip through the cracks every now and then), and the checkbook got balanced.  But keeping on top of information for taxes — that just didn’t happen in a regular basis.

Unfortunately in 2008, it didn’t happen.  At all.

So, I am now recoiling from sorting through a year’s worth of receipts and paid bills and other important papers, trying to make some sense of it, and trying to organize the information in it’s depths to the point where I can give the necessary info to our accountant.  I tried working on it last week, and I made some definite progress.  But then I got sick, and then this week arrived, and now we’re going to So. Cal. next week … and we meet with our accountant on March 3.

Eeek!

Since practicaly nothing happened in taxes last year, 2009 can ONLY be an improvement.  Since I am drowning in this mess, I have made a mid-February new year’s resolution to improve for next year.  This nice thing with this resolution is that if I do almost nothing at all, it’s STILL better than last year.

(Emily, be honest.  Alright.  I DID do a little work on my taxes back in spring last year.  After dealing with the mess that was our 2007 taxes, I was inspired to do better.  But once spring was past, I did zero more work on them.   And THAT is not an exaggeration.  I hope I can keep my springtime inspiration going all year this year.)

With the idea that I want to do better this year, and with the knowledge that the economy is headed south, and while we’re in good shape financially it can never hurt to be better, and I really would like to have a budget and know how much money we can give away on a regular basis because so many organizations need money — with all that in mind, when I get our 2008 taxes off to the accountant, I am going to try something new.

I am going to try to make a budget.

Well, at least I’m going to try to somehow track, on a computer, where our money goes each month.  I think the time has come.  I can’t keep having tax seasons like this where I’m swimming in paperwork.

And, I know that I like numbers and crunching numbers and seeing numbers in a nice neat line, so if I can find a fun program, perhaps I’ll like it enough to use it.  I think my enjoyment of the process is key to my success.

(Because I DO like to keep my checkbook balanced.  No matter what has happened in our lives, when our checking statment arrives, within 24 hours I go through it against our checkbook and see if everything checks out.  I enjoy that.  So, I think if I can just get started with some kind of budgeting thing, I’ll like it, too.)

Simple Mom had an idea last week about a tool called Pear Budget.  I think I may give it a try.

Do any of you have ideas for budgeting tools and/or tricks that YOU use?  I’d love to hear them!

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2 thoughts on “taxes! (shudder)

  1. You know I have your same problem 😉 This year I, too, was once again overwhelmed by collecting, sorting, and adding reciepts! Ugh!

    But next year it WILL be better for me! On the budget plan that I have now, not only will I be able to estimate our parsonage allowance if I have to, I will probably be able to do some sort of Excel formula in order to come up with “the number” for our treasurer. The only hard part is getting in the habit of entering in each and every reciept into my table for each paycheck. But even that doesn’t seem so bad because it is only one paycheck, not the whole year.

    So I guess my advice is to do a little at a time and/or keep a running total of things you know will be on your tax return.

  2. For what it’s worth, Peter made me start using a computer program to track our finances when we first got married (that’s what I get for marrying a business major!) 🙂 I’ve used both Quicken and Microsoft Money, and they’re both pretty easy (and remember, this is the number-phobic English major talking). The main thing is to remember to enter receipts (I do it twice a month, when I pay the bills, so they don’t pile up too much). They both have easy ways to categorize expenses, so tallying things up later is simple.

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