Friday, April 8, 2016

Don't Mess With Taxes

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At Hope n' Change, we know discerning readers like you are here for trenchant commentary on current news events - not just angry rants about petty personal problems. Which is why we're going to get the news out of the way as quickly as possible so we can move on to kvetching about our petty personal problems. Ready?

Barry just let two explosives experts out of Guantanamo Bay, no doubt because the bad guys LOST two bomb experts when they blew themselves up in Brussels. Fair is fair. Which is also Barry's apparent rationale in claiming that executive "prosecutorial discretion" allows him to dictate that illegal aliens won't be prosecuted for taking tax refunds, social security, and welfare benefits they're not entitled to.

Bernie and Hillary are on the campaign trail, each saying that the other is unqualified to be president - and for once, both are right. Cruz is getting booed in New York, and Trump just swore to streamline the government by closing the "Department of Environmentals," which he abbreviated "The DEP" for reasons which are still unclear to us. All in all, Hope n' Change is sick of the primaries, we hope to avoid talking about them anymore, and we're absolutely going to vote for WHOMEVER is running against the Democratic candidate, even if it's Vlad the Impaler.

And now, on with the griping!

We're still working on our taxes, and the work involved has stretched from days to weeks. Our desk is only theoretically lurking somewhere beneath the myriad receipts, notes, notices, and scribbled ledgers which are actively reproducing in the area surrounding the computer. And we had to drop $100 for Turbotax because physical tax forms are harder to decipher than a terrorist's smartphone.

Among the things Turbotax discovered for us is that we were remiss in not creating and sending a 1099-MISC form (months ago!) to a workman who received a couple of grand from us for repadding our cell (sometimes, the news makes us a bit...agitated). The IRS will happily let you look up and download the blank form online "for educational purposes," but won't accept the form for official use unless it's printed on their Magic Paper. Which means you have to order it online and wait for "7 to 15 days" which means we were almost certainly not going to get our taxes completed on time.

One day later, we were able to eliminate the "almost" part of that statement when we discovered we ALSO needed to order Form 1096 on Magic Paper and include it with the 1099-Misc we were sending to the IRS. The Form 1096 exists to say, and we're not making this up, "there should also be a 1099-Misc in this envelope." Without the 1096, IRS examiners will only stare at the 1099-Misc in bafflement and say "what the...what the hell is this?!"

But the real blow came when computing our taxable income, owing to an "oopsy" near the end of last year. The stock market was in turmoil, and we decided to move much of our retirement money out of the bloody knife-fighting arena of stocks and stick the loot into money market funds for awhile. Such a transfer is a non-taxable event (since the money stays in the retirement account) and can be easily done in a nanosecond with a click of a mouse.

Unfortunately, it's just as easy (and irrevocable) to click that mouse button and realize that you just sold your stocks and the money is leaving your protected account - and suddenly the money you were expecting to live on for years has magically become your lump sum 2015 income! We were instantly transported to the lofty nosebleed section of tax brackets normally reserved for those evil "millionaires and billionaires" who Barry is currently shmoozing with in California to raise money.

But wait - there's more! Thanks to the unexpected surge in our apparent income, Turbotax pointed out that we no longer deserved last year's Obamacare subsidy because we'd suddenly turned loathesome - and so an additional $10,500 "payback" was added to our taxes - bringing the total up to about $40,000 which we'll be paying by tear-stained check. Of course, Hope n' Change reliably brings in about $40 a month in ad revenue, which means we'll have the whole amount paid off in just 83 years!

Still, if the money can make it easier for a few illegal aliens to enjoy their retirement, provide free college for a flag-burning youth or two, or fund just a few hours of fuel for Air Force One to go on partisan political fundraising junkets, then it's all worthwhile.

And believe us, we'd never say that if the drugs (deductible) and alcohol (not deductible) hadn't just kicked in.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Wisconsin

State motto: "If you MUST sin, Wisconsin!"
It's hard for Hope n' Change to find exactly the right words to describe the game-changing impact of the stunning and totally unexpected voting results from yesterday's Wisconsin primary.

Mostly because, at the time of this writing, we have no idea how the primaries turned out because millions of Wisconsinites are still at the polls casting their votes before returning home for a delicious dinner of artery-clogging cheese (although it being Taco Tuesday, they may be enjoying cheese con queso).

According to political pundits who, frankly, should just shut their pieholes already, Cruz will decisively beat Trump on the GOP side and cause The Donald's campaign to go into a yuuuge death spiral. Unless it's Trump who wins decisively, thereby clinching the Republican nomination and forcing Cruz to return to Canada where he'll wander aimlessly in the vast maple syrup-producing wilderness wearing beaver pelts and mumbling in Spanish.

On the Democrat side, the (ahem) experts are predicting a win for Bernie Sanders because Hillary can't rely on the state's nearly nonexistent black vote, especially after she declared that unborn black persons have no constitutional rights. Okay, she didn't single out the black unborn, but it was implied - right? Moreover, Wisconsin voters like the idea of a president Bernie Sanders because he'll need to buy unbelievable amounts of cheese for government handouts. On the other hand, maybe Hillary will win because of a deal she made with the devil involving her grandchild's soul (her own was traded away decades ago).

Whatever the election results turn out to be, one thing is certain: when we enter the voting booth in November to choose between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, we'll wonder why the heck we even bothered with primaries.

And THAT'S what makes it American Cheese!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Forward, Fall Flat

First and foremost, it should be pointed out that I came very, very close to not falling off the ladder this year, which is pretty good for a man my age. And weight. And lack of physical coordination.

I'd probably finished 90% of the gutter cleaning, which is absolutely one of my least favorite spring chores. Seriously, there are much better things to be doing on a beautiful Texas day than balancing on a ladder while scooping gutter smuck: a thick, stinking mix of mud, decaying leaves, acorns, fire ants, bird poop, skittering roly polies, mosquitoes, and aggressive slime molds.

I was on my way down the step ladder (about 3 feet up) when it took a sudden shift to the left (much like Hillary Clinton in the current election cycle) and I realized I was about to have An Adventure. I sort of jumped, sort of stepped down, sort of fell, and sort of landed on my feet. And a potted plant.

"Well played!" said Mr. Excruciating Pain, who had decided to join me on short notice.

It's likely that no lasting harm was done, but I definitely screwed up one hip, both knees, and my left calf. I can still get around, but it's not pretty; I look like a cross between a tightrope walker and Captain Ahab with tourette's syndrome.

This being the case, I'm foregoing political commentary today so that I can do a vigorous and restorative alcohol rub on my tongue (and other areas if the alcohol holds out). After which I'm officially adding "cleaning my gutters" to the list of jobs Americans won't do.

In hindsight, we shouldn't have bought an ACME Instant-Fold Step Ladder.

Bum leg or not, I couldn't let Hillary's blood-chilling statement go by without comment. Incidentally, Bernie Sanders echoed the same sentiment: the unborn have no constitutional rights or protections at any point in their gestation.

A long time ago, Barack Obama lied when he said that the question of when life begins was "above his pay grade." Apparently Hillary has no doubt: life begins when the government says so. Which will in time undoubtedly lead to life ending when the government says so. After all, why should the elderly have any rights after they're reclassified as "pre-deceased?"