Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Taxes

It's income tax season alright.  Mark started working on our taxes back in January, and finished his.  Then there were mine.  And my taxes are a treat, let me tell you.  For a number of reasons, including school errors, spotty work history, and the way my bank accounts are set up (read: I stopped managing money entirely while I was unemployed, and as a result forgot my login for my savings account), my taxes were complicated.

The great thing about doing our taxes, nightmare that it has been, has been that it has gotten us talking more about money, about retirement, about saving and spending and how to do things.  It's gotten us to install Quicken because we weren't satisfied with the tools in Mint, and start talking more about how we want/need to be budgeting for the future.

The thing that I'm uncomfortable about when it comes to our taxes is that Mark did them.  I took Fed Income Tax, but none of it stuck with me, and I have absolutely no understanding of any tax forms whatsoever.  I think there is a class that I can take at the local community college, or maybe one of the senior centers I go to for work, which I will do at some point, but I haven't yet.  And my mom has done my taxes up until now (I'm really embarrassed to admit this, you guys, but everybody has some gaps in their knowledge, right?)

Mark, on the other hand, has filed his taxes since college.  So he did our taxes.  Which concerns me, because I think in relationships, women should play a significant role in the financial conversation, in the earning of money and the deciding how it should be used, and in the paying of taxes.  Because good lord, if we got divorced, I would have to hire an accountant since I'm such a clueless disaster.  Yes, the solution would have, should have been, sit down next to him and watch him do my taxes, but sitting on the couch and blogging was so much more fun.  (Also sometimes I made dinner while he did the taxes, which seems very 1950s of us.)  My contributions to the taxes were trying to fix the mistakes my school made in sending me the wrong forms, generating the tax statements from my bank account, and not losing my W2.  (Challenging.)

I know I'm not the only woman out there who doesn't touch the taxes, as evidenced by the fact that when I tweeted, "am making my husband do the taxes and feeling unfeminist", several fellow bloggers responded with, "if he likes it/wants to do them, let him! everybody wins!"  Which is true, although a small part of me thinks that when we hand over the tricky, challenging parts of being a grownup to our partner instead of learning how to do them, we all lose a little bit.

Who does the taxes in your house?  Do you feel like money management is a "man" thing to do?  (My mom does my parent's taxes, so I'm not sure why I think it's a man thing.  I think all my guy friends do the taxes in their relationships.)


  1. You know I am a feminist, but I must admit I am delighted that Collin will probably be doing our taxes after I'm married.

  2. I'm the one who does my own taxes. I have since I was 12, when I started earning money. C is a partner in at least two different businesses, owns various properties, and makes money from freelance as well.

    His are complicated. So we pay to get them done, but we both go see the accountant and we both understand what is going on with us. That's really important to me, because of my family history (dad left when I was 15, mom had zero employment or money). Although, C does most of the day-to-day money stuff. Weekly we decide what we're doing with our money, but then C carries it out. It works for us, because he does it on the evenings that I'm in class.

  3. Our taxes were extra-complicated this year due to the whole Canadian thing. I did my Canadian taxes and Econo Man did our US taxes jointly. I did look over the forms at the end so I could honestly say that I read what I signed, but I will have no qualms about letting Econo Man do our taxes entirely on his own when we're both back in the US. Here's the thing: I hate doing taxes. My feeling towards government forms of all kinds borders on a phobia. I CAN do my taxes myself but I know I miss loopholes and deductions because going through the tax code with a fine-tooth comb is my idea of hell.

    My husband? He thinks taxes are interesting. He loves looking for all those little deductions and parsing tax laws and figuring out exactly how to maximize our return. So yeah, he'll be doing most of our tax work from here on out.

  4. I have a relative with a CPA who has always done my taxes. When she can't do them anymore, I will pay an accountant to do so. I don't need to be an expert on everything, and am willing to let someone else handle some things for me.

  5. I used to do my taxes myself, but for the past couple of years, the "Canadian thing" that petitechablis mentioned has made things complicated for us as well. I threw up my hands, threw in the towel, and hired an accountant to do our taxes. Best money ever spent, and I don't have to worry that we're missing anything/doing anything wrong.

    If we didn't have an accountant, I would probably be the one doing our taxes, simply because himself has no concept of doing one's own taxes. Where he grew up, it's not done that way, so he's been a bit incredulous that people are responsible for doing their own. So really, our situation is win-win . . .

  6. I agree that both partners should be aware of the financial situation, but I do not think it is a losing situation to leverage the skills of one partner to get the taxes done. It is one thing I enjoy most about being in a relationship. You each bring different skills and strengths to the relationship. One person can be good at taxes and the other person can be good at something else.

  7. I think whomever has the strongest financial/tax skills should do it. In our marriage, I manage day-to-day finances and will do the taxes (until they get complicated..then we'll pay a CPA). My husband manages the long term stuff. It plays to both of our strengths and we're open about where we are with things. It wouldn't make sense for us to have the "weaker" person manage all the money.

  8. I've never done my own taxes. Previously it was my parents, and when Brian and I moved in together we used an accountant, but Brian handled it.

    But mainly, I wanted to comment on this:

    "Also sometimes I made dinner while he did the taxes, which seems very 1950s of us."

    If you were doing the taxes and Mark were the one cooking, would it make you also feel uncomfortable (too progressive) or like that's the way it's supposed to be? My point is that in any relationship there is some give and take, there's times when by chance you fall into some sort of traditional or prescribed gender role, and that's totally okay. It doesn't mean you were forced into that or that it has to be that way all the time. I'm sure you know this, but I just had to say it.

    Personally, I've decided to stop feeling feminist or unfeminist. I feel like either way, when I do that, I never win. I'm always either feeling not progressive enough or unable to properly function.

  9. I do the taxes! I really enjoy it right now, when our taxes are pretty simple, and he gets really flustered about it, so this is the first year when I've done both of ours instead of doing mine and watching him freak out about his. I'm not sure how it will work next year, when we file jointly for the first time, but hopefully we'll figure them out togehter. That's the plan, at least.

    And I think everyone should be confident in their financial affairs not to be feminist, but to be adult. I agree that money and its handling is often considered a male domain (especially because of the legacy of an era when many women didn't work), but that doesn't mean it should be!

  10. MOB and I are like the scene in Ben Hur with the elderly crippled guy and the mute powerful guy "between us we make a considerable person". We use Turbo Tax, which being a computer program is always operated by MOB, the computer whiz. However MOB has the in depth understanding of taxes that a squirrel has of oak tree genetics. She recognizes an acorn and that's about it. I understand the tax law conceptually and I am very good at tax planning but I fight the program continuously. But she is far more orderly and together than I am and always remembers where the stapler is and can put all the pages together. No sexism here, were are real partners.

  11. Oh geez. Taxes to me are the epitome of a "throw money at the problem" kind of problem. As in, throw money at an accountant so that I do not have to deal with it. I actually am not terribly repelled by managing money, credit cards, etc. in general, but something about the small print on tax forms makes me immediately tired and I just don't think I need to have an amazing understanding of all the exemptions I can claim when accountants have specific degrees in knowing how to do those things better than me.

    That said, Eric does his own taxes on TurboTax and seems pretty nonplussed by it, so it's reasonable to guess he may end up doing our taxes someday. To me it's not a gendered issue so much as a "let someone with credentials do this so that I can do, um, anything else worthwhile with my time" issue.

  12. I do my own taxes. The boy has a complicated tax situation (partly owns 3 businesses) so we are filing separately for 2010 and working with an accountant to get it all sorted out for 2011.

    Day to day, I handle all the finances for our family and have since we bought property together 4 years ago.

  13. I'll definitely do our taxes, but I'm 1 semester away from a masters degree in accounting so...of course I'll do them! As long as you're aware of your financial situation, I don't think it matters who actually does the taxes. Taxes do not equal understanding your situation at all! Taxes are a weird thing that have completely different rules from "real" life. I personally found it very empowering to learn about finance and investing and tax planning, but it certainly has nothing to do with being feminist enough as long as you are involved in the general financial matters.

  14. I am the one that handles administrative stuff in our marriage, including taxes. Though I am not naturally inclined towards taxes and I don't enjoy them, my husband hates doing taxes more than anything else in life, and so it falls to me. We also are a Canadian-U.S couple, so this year I have been doing his/our Canadian tax prep work (and then getting help from someone else who knows tax law to figure out the numbers because we are freelance and it is complicated.) This is my second year to do my U.S. taxes and I have been using Turbo Tax. I guess we might stay with this approach in the future.

    I will say that if my husband were to want to do our taxes (or even just the Canada part), I would be thrilled. Oh well!