This is the point where very difficult and unique tax returns show up on my desk. To clients: I’m making headway. Slower than the early part of tax season, but still peeling off work at a good clip. I still need to focus on quality over speed and some of these issues just take time.
I’ll be sleeping Saturday and back to the office Sunday for uninterrupted time.
Also, a reminder we have another drawing this upcoming week. Details on the Where Am I page.
What I’m Reading
Earlier this week I introduced you to a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s worth reading, takes a few minutes and is free. If you haven’t already, take a moment to read Harrison Bergeron (& Activity). You’ll think of inequality in a whole new light.
What I’m Watching
I have no words for what I’m about to show you. FTL is really good and worth the time to watch.
What I’m Listening To
Simon & Garfunkel never fail to entertain. Enjoy Scarborough Fair.
Enjoy your weekend, kind readers.
We had another drawing this week for two $50 Amazon cards. We have one winner and one in anticipation.
Chuck R of Lincoln NE claimed his $50 Amazon card. Congratulations Chuck and thanks for subscribing. It’s great to have you here.
The second winner hasn’t contacted me yet so if you’re a subscriber be sure to check your email. My legal people tell me I need to wait 30 days before tossing the money back into the ring. If the prize goes unclaimed I’ll add it to another drawing. Check the Where Am I page for details.
Camp Accountant Update
I spoke with Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) earlier and he likes the idea of hosting a Camp Accountant at MMM headquarters in Longmont, CO. A date hasn’t been set and many details need to be worked out.
The biggest issue surrounding Camp Accountant is time. I’m enjoying the best tax season in years. The office is running smooth. Virtually all tax returns are out in a week or less. If your return has been in my office longer than a week we either are waiting for more documents or I’m researching an issue to maximize tax benefits. Even still, the pain of burnout lingers.
Longer hours and hyper-productivity take a toll. The tax law changes this past year are so significant I will spend most of my time this summer with clients and blog readers hammering out the best approach to realizing the maximum benefits from the changes.
With limited personal time available I am unable to run the whole Camp Accountant show myself. I am committed to attending (it was Pete’s first question) and presenting several topics. I will also attempt to get IRS approval for CPE for enrolled agents and CPAs.
All this said, Camp Accountant is on hold unless someone, or someones, volunteer to facilitate. I can provide guidance, advice and encouragement, but I can’t run the whole show myself. (I might be energetic, but I’m not crazy. (Don’t comment!))
If you or someone you know is interested in facilitating a Camp Accountant in Longmont, let me know. You’ll get to meet Pete (always a great experience) and work with me (not always as great as meeting Pete). Ideally the person/s helping organize the event should live near Longmont. Duties would involve planning the event, setup, helping determine the fee to each attendee and handling registration.
Now on to our weekend entertainment.
What I’m Reading
What I’m reading isn’t always what I’ve read. There is a difference. I’m nearly finished with How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. Reading time is at a premium during tax season. That said, by the time you read this I’ll have finished the book.
How Democracies Die examines democracies in the recent past that have failed and asks if it can happen to the U.S. The comparisons are concerning. Politically polarized people with a closed mind will hate the information. Intelligent people will see reason for concern and ample reason for hope and how we as individuals can make a difference.
This isn’t a long book. Outside tax season I’d finish it in a day or two. It’s addictive reading. Part of my slow reading pace on this book is the amount of highlighting and note-taking. I may write a full post discussing How Democracies Die when time permits. There is so much powerful information between the covers you will find yourself reading this book and referring back to it often. I know this for a fact because I’m doing it before I’ve even finished the first reading. Yes, I said first reading.
What I’m Watching
Okay, I admit it. I watch some strange YouTube videos. But also admit you find them interesting too.
Our first selection caught my eyes in the feed: 13 Unusual Facts about Females that are Totally True.
Did you know there is an illegal number, as in a number illegal to possess? Me neither! Watch TWL#7: This Number is Illegal and join me on a criminal adventure. Don’t worry. You’ll look good in orange.
By now you’ve realized I have a science fetish. I share a wide selection on this blog, but my history on YouTube is cluttered with math and science videos. I can’t get enough. To that end I share with you Bose-Einstein Condensate: The Coldest Place in the Universe. It just makes me want to start the experiment.
What I’m Listening To
Remember the movie Heavy Metal? It’s been a long time. I didn’t care for the movie, but loved the music. Here is the theme song, Takin’ a Ride.
One Tin Soldier is a powerful song reminding us greed will destroy the most important part of life: peace on Earth.
And to finish this week’s selection I share a reminder from Three Dog Night: Black & White.
May you have peace and love, kind readers. See you Monday where I’ll share my insights into the tariff issues and how it’ll affect wealth, the economy and the stock market.
It’s been an exciting week in the accounting world. The first full week of the traditional tax season is in the books with nine more left to go. As far as I can tell there have been no casualties.
Your favorite accountant is happy to report this is the smoothest tax season in years in his office. Three or four years ago I met Mr. Money Mustache and he put me on the map (Thank you, Pete!) it created a deluge of demand I was ill prepared to handle. The problem was I had no idea what I was getting into. Those problems seem to be fully resolved.
The added challenges nearly killed my practice. I had to learn new skills PDQ if I wanted to survive. Hiring more employees was a problem since nobody local had experience in what I was going through.
But, I am proud to say after several mental cramps I turned the corner. New policies and massive increases in technology have the office humming like a well oiled machine with stress reduced to a minimum. I’ll let you know if the psychosis returns.
Until then . . . I’m feeling much better now.
The smooth operation of our tax functions means I am still accepting new clients selectively. The bottleneck now is in processing the requests. To that end I hired a new team member to help with the follow-up of requests.
If you sent a request in the last few months without a response you should resend the request. Please include your phone number. Most do not. Amy will send an email with a follow-up phone call if we feel it’s a good fit.
The reason for the additional screening is to make sure it works for all parties involved. Sometimes expectations are different from what we can handle with our current structure. I’d rather discover early if there is a conflict or issues before we start. This is easier on both of us.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t get in. My team has managed to get things running smooth again after I overwhelmed the machinery. To keep it smooth we have to make sure we can do the job right.
Another Tax Bill
When you were looking the other way Congress passed another tax bill Friday. Yes, as in yesterday if you’re reading this the day I published.
The hoopla about the latest government shutdown was resolved with a major spending bill with lots of tax nuggets.
Here is why the spending bill is so important. The tax part of the bill retroactively renewed many expired tax provisions! This means many of the returns filed early are wrong!
The IRS is busting heinie to implement the changes. My software provider will update as soon as the IRS has their end fixed and ready to accept returns with the updates.
Here are some of the more common changes:
- Mortgage insurance premiums are back and will be the number one reason we will need to amend.
- Discharged mortgage debt is excluded from income again.
- The provision to deduct education expenses (qualified tuition and related expenses) up to $4,000 above-the-line is restored.
The remainder of the thirty or so renewed provisions generally affect businesses.
Because the IRS will need time to implement these changes you either have to wait to file (including possible filing an extension) or filing now and amending later. It’s your call.
I kindly ask readers to spread the word on the DIY tax software offered by 1040.com. This is the same software I use in my office. If you use the link on this page it supports your favorite blog.
This is a project close to my heart and means a lot. Thank you for considering the option. Many returns also qualify for free-file.
Remember we have a drawing for two cash giveaways next week Wednesday. Details are available on the Where Am I page. Be sure to open those emails with the latest TWA post to win!
Now let’s have some fun!
What I’m Reading
Every year at this time I make myself a promise as I head to the office each day that I will take an hour or two to read. This year, as in past years, the promise is unfulfilled.
I still read some early in the morning and at night after writing if I can keep my eyes open. The weekends are nirvana!
This week I worked on a book in progress, but mostly read from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.
When I need to perform at my best I always look to my Stoic literature. If you don’t keep a copy of The Daily Stoic next to your bed you don’t know what you’re missing.
What I’m Watching
Just as time is tight for reading, time spent watching videos is also curtailed. As important as learning and relaxation are, tax season is a time when accountants sacrifice some of these hedonic pleasures.
SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy Rocket this week and I watched it live from my desk. It was the coolest thing ever! Enjoy if you haven’t already.
I also watched a few videos in the vein of the selection provided here. Mysteries intrigue me even if they are somewhat contrived. Old stuff grabs my attention hard. Here we see mysterious monuments from around the world.
What I’m Listening To
My listening tastes turn unique during these intense times. I think you’ll enjoy Beethoven’s Symphony 7 selection. The calming sound emanated from my office more than once this week.
When the coffee started to wear off I got silly. Something to break up the classical sounds.
Finally, as you read this your favorite accountant is probably sleeping it off or reading voraciously with drool running from the left side of his mouth.
I’m also planning a special post for Monday. We have enjoyed p/e ratios in the upper teens, 20s and higher on the broad indexes for so long people forget it wasn’t that long ago when the S&P sported a single digit p/e ratio and the average stock in the index threw off over a 6% dividend yield with many sporting even higher payouts!
Monday we will discuss what would need to happen to go back to those days of the late 1970s and early 1980s and the late 1940s and early 1950s. It’s been a while since we enjoyed such a market. I promise an engaging read.
Won’t you join me.
When I was a little boy I loved watching the stars and dreaming. Then I grew up and, for a short period of time, lost the awesome wonder of the universe. Truth is I lost sight of the big picture for a better view of the small picture.
In the early years of my marriage we forwent cable television. The local free channels were enough entertainment for us. Even after children entered the scene the TV remained free. Massive wealth later caused me a moment of insanity where cable TV entered my home; a decade later it was gone.
An addiction to football* grew in me as I got older. In my defense the football game was nothing more than background noise as I worked around the house, garage or barn. But addictions have a habit of taking over a person’s life. Soon I was watching several games on Sunday and college ball on Saturday. And don’t forget the Monday and Thursday night games. If they had a Tuesday at two in the morning game I am sure I would have tuned in.
Then I took the first step; I admitted I had a problem (not to mention how sick and tired I was of commercials). Where I live out in the boondocks cable is called DirecTV. After a decade of insane television watching I pulled the plug and cancelled the DirecTV subscription and watched my net worth jump $1,000 a year. Anticipating pushback from the wildlife in my home I suggested we put DirecTV on hold for six months as an experiment. Two months in the kids were the first to say they did not care if cable ever came back. They preferred the internet anyway. The nightmare had ended.
I had my life back. As a matter of confession I do have Netflix. Network television is something I don’t watch due to an allergic reaction to bullshit, I mean, commercials. Once I ended TV in my life some wonderful things happened. Everything looked brighter. By ending the litany of garbage from the glass teat** I was able to think better on my own and enjoy each day more. Without network television I have not watched a football game in forever and don’t know and don’t care who is playing. Commercials, also known as mind control, no longer affect me since I am not seeing them.
Something else magical happened. One August night I decided to watch the Perseid meteor shower. I tossed a blanket on the lawn and enjoyed a night like I had not had since I was a little boy. Then something that could only happen on such a magical night happened; my oldest daughter wandered outside to check up on dear ‘ol dad. She sat down beside me on the blanket and asked me what I was watching. I said Caveman TV. She busted up laughing and the term stuck. My daughter, my baby, fell in love with the universe at large that night. Tears poured from my eyes as I thought of the words to Cats in the Cradle.
During the summer months we have a fire pit at night when the wind is calm. Caveman TV is eagerly anticipated by certain members of the family as the sun sinks below the horizon. I wish I could convey in words what we see, but you need a reference point to understand. Either you have seen Caveman TV or you have no reference points to understand Caveman TV. It is like listening to people talk about the Packers when you don’t have a clue about any of the players.
Let me share what we see anyway. Sometimes we lay on a blanket, other times we sit in lawn chairs as we gaze at the massive big screen TV we call the night sky. Countless meteors have surprised us with a glistening trail of brilliant light and a rare fireball is table talk for weeks. One of our favorite pastimes is watching a circumpolar satellite*** trace silently across the sky. As our eyes adjust to the darkness the stars sharpen and dim stars appear for the first time. The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, is now a mesmerizing feature of the heavens.
There is something about the crisp nighttime air and the critters of the evening. Crickets are soothing as bats dart through the air keeping the mosquitoes in check. There! Out of the corner of the eye, a meteor etches a laser cut burning into the retina of the eye. An unannounced meteor shower makes its presence. The crickets keep singing their tune as a faint strobing light slowly makes its way across the sky. The plot lines are countless as the soap opera unfolds on today’s edition of Caveman TV.
The Leonid meteor shower in November is a hit or miss event. The colder weather in northeast Wisconsin coupled with the cloudiest month of the year sometimes disrupts the signal from classic Caveman TV. Winter is colder, of course, and we spend less time outside late at night, but we take the longer nighttime hours to watch Orion race from east to west. The hunter never seems to catch his elusive prey. Like most classical Greek, the storyline is filled with adventure and hope.
City-dwellers reading this do not understand the night sky until they travel to the countryside. It reminds me of Nightfall, a novel by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg where people face darkness for the first time in 2000 years. Watching the face of a child light up as they see the night sky, the real night sky, for the first time is moving. It is at this moment when a child realizes for the first time there is another much larger world out there.
I could preach about the negative effects commercial TV and radio have on you. You already know advertising manipulates you into spending money you should be investing. You also know advertising works or the advertisers would soon go out of business. My conscious choice was to remove commercial media from my life. The radio in the barn is tuned to public radio; steers and chickens don’t like commercials either. I only watch Netflix on the glass teat now and read and write or work around the house while it plays. I have turned into a terrible television watcher.
Money was not the motivating factor in dumping cable, network TV and commercial radio; freedom was. Spending hours a day planted on the couch watching the same commercials ad nauseam did not give me what I wanted. I found a better way and hope you will join me. Sure, I still see commercials when visiting family or at the gym. (They have TVs everywhere in the gym!) I read a lot and even your favorite blog from a certain wealthy accountant has ads on the page. (Man has to eat!) I am not against advertising. I am against this splatter shot approach of ‘in your face’ promotion. Relevant ads are okay with me. Ads to help me cut costs or educate me on things I am interested in are okay. But if I see another ad asking me to talk to my doctor the promoter is going to need a doctor.
A massive world exists out there (Oh wonder! /How many goodly creatures are there here! /How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, /That hath such people in ’t!). Discover the world our grandparents knew when the night sky was alive and the distraction of the Idiot Box did not call. Teach your children of the brave new world, filled with beauteous people, and wonders.
* The Green Bay Packers rank higher than God in these parts. Don’t believe it? Check how many people watch the game versus how many went to church. I rest my case.
** The glass teat (for the younger people in the group) is from the days when televisions had a glass bubble for a screen. The protruding glass screen fed us our daily dose of mind control, hence, the glass teat. (Gawd! I feel old explaining that.)
** I know there is no such thing as a circumpolar satellite. There are no satellites circling either of the poles. There are circumpolar constellations however. In the context of the story, the satellite travels from south to straight north. We might be confusing the International Space Station for a satellite periodically. It is still good Caveman TV.