Thursday, April 16, 2015

Audit This!

Years ago, friends who worked for the IRS told me that, when people have no taxable income and the refunds due for any taxes that have been paid on their behalf are small, the IRS actually prefers that those people not file tax returns. Saves time! Saves hassle! Saves paper! (And, of course, filing on paper saves security risks...to everybody!)

A frugal person can live quite well without having a taxable income. More years than not, I've not had one. Last year, when I was not living well, I certainly did not have a taxable income. I didn't expect that there'd be any need to file a tax return.

Last winter, though, a neighbor's child really wanted me to take over an online job for which she'd applied, during a desperate job search, and then decided she wasn't naturally well suited. I was willing to take over the job. I was also skeptical about the willingness of a company that hired a 25-year-old credit card junkie to replace same with a 50-year-old frugal champion, especially when we reviewed the job description, which mentioned that "the successful candidate uses" about a half-dozen web sites for which seriously frugal people have no use. Well, did the company need to know which of us it was paying? We decided it probably did. Well, personal information about me--the kind the IRS uses to identify taxpayers and identity thieves use to sneak into the United States for purposes of espionage and terrorism--is not available via the Internet. Period. But information about the Online Bookstore is available, of course; it's just not linked to anybody's real name, home address, working phone number, or any e-mail address other than salolianigodagewi @ yahoo. So why not set up a business account for the Online Bookstore at irs.gov? It seemed like a good idea at the time; so far the Online Bookstore has functioned entirely to advertise a few very small sales in the real world, but if we do start actually selling books online the IRS will of course have a right to know about that.

So we set up the account, and the company didn't work with us. So then, seeing that I was likely to be making only enough money for me to live on, not enough for babygirl to live on as well, at the hack writing site where I currently e-work, babygirl didn't want to share her computer with me. So I went back to public-access computers for the time being. The business officially to be known as "Priscilla's Internet Portal" still exists strictly as a theoretical construct that may or may not reappear in the real world later this year. It didn't exist even in that sense in 2014.

Nevertheless, someone prompted me to ask a professional tax preparer, who said I'd better file taxes. It was the fourteenth of April. "Apply for an extension," she said. I printed out the form, filled it out, and took it to the post office on the fifteenth of April, but didn't have the official tax ID number for the business. Getting that involved some late-evening drama with a sick, hostile child--I mean, babygirl has been around for twenty-five years or more, but her mother had warned me she wasn't feeling well, and she was carrying on like a five-year-old losing its first baby tooth, whining and distracting and failing to explain exactly how she'd messed up her computer...

So then I went over such records as I'd kept of my finances last year. Although information that evildoers could use against me or others is not available to the general public, the facts about my income aren't confidential at all. I write about frugality, and recently I received a bit of airheaded advice from a real lightweight in this field, +kathleen wallace , showing just how much some people don't know about what serious frugality means. So I thought I might as well take the opportunity to spell it out for you. I'm aware of people who do more with less than I do, but not in any part of North America. I believe I really am the most frugal person on this continent. I've made it an art form.

When filing for the extension I'd estimated my income to have been US$2375.00. On closer examination, I was off by $30. My income during the past year was US$2345.00. This includes barters of benefits to me, but does not include donations of food, medicine, or vaccinations directly to the cats at the Cat Sanctuary.

More specifically: $1560 for a weekly cleaning job.

$160 for small knitted items I carried around, displayed, and sold in casual conversations with people I met on the road or in public places.

$15 for books sold at the Tree of Fashion store during its last month in operation.

$50 out of the $170 Bubblews was supposed to have paid me.

$25 (as a gift card) out of the $50 this survey site was supposed to have paid me. Another gift card was supposedly mailed out to the Tree of Fashion store and was probably lost in the mail.

$10 in plumbing supplies, and $90 paid directly to the county tax office on my behalf, for one day's work at the official standard price of $100.

$165 in shopping sprees at stores friends were trying to boost.

$45 as a phone card from someone who felt guilty for wasting my prepaid phone minutes.

$15 for an antique window pane.

$50 for a load of metal.

$20 for casual help with moving.

$140 paid directly to a utility company on my behalf, balance paid in 2015, for two days' work at $100.

What some people who think they know something about frugality might want to know, at this point, is how on Earth a person can live on this kind of income. A few pointers:

* I inherited the house, and a bit of land on which I've encouraged useful plants and discouraged grass for many years.

* About the only electric-powered things I used regularly were the modem-free computer, a fan, a space heater, and a few fluorescent lights. From time to time I used a cell phone charger, turned on a burner on the electric stove, or plugged in the toilet (the Sun-Mar electric-powered toilet was discussed here last winter). I did not use a refrigerator, freezer, any kind of climate control system, any kind of TV, a water heater, or similar luxuries, in 2014.

* I didn't use a home phone.

* I didn't buy any new clothes in 2014.

* I didn't own a motor vehicle.

* I did manage a few donations to good local causes...but I kept them very few and far between.

* I did not eat every day. This was primarily unplanned and dictated by unplanned, uncomfortable reactions to unlabelled genetically modified food products; I spent almost half of 2014 feeling sick. I do not recommend this, either as a way to reduce food expenses, or as a way to lose weight...but I did both of those things.

* On several days, what I ate was what was growing near my home. (I'd like to take this opportunity to mention Grandma Bonnie Peters' persimmons. GBP grew up in a place that cherished the legend of Jonathan Chapman, an eccentric preacher of the early nineteenth century, as "Johnny Appleseed" who planted apple trees wherever he went. She liked our local species of wild persimmons and hoped to be remembered as "Bonnie Persimmonseed," but, for twenty or thirty years, saw no evidence that any of the seeds she'd planted had become a fruit-bearing tree. Some trees mature slowly...and although they produced a few fruit in 2012 and 2013, 2014 was the year when I actually gathered pints of wild persimmons from the trees GBP planted. I like persimmons, and made several days' meals of them.)

* I did not use any kind of medical care in 2014. I've resigned myself, very unhappily, to the fact that until the United States comes to our senses and prunes the parasites out of our medical system, no medical care is going to be available to me as I grow older. (Ironically, the fifteenth of April was a day when another of my elders reported another way another insurance scheme was cheating her...) I don't want to waste any money feeding the parasitic insurance industry; I believe it's immoral to feed parasites. I don't want anyone feeding any parasites on my behalf, either. If I break a leg and can't pay cash to have it set, which is what I've always planned to do, then I'll just go through the rest of my life with a crooked leg.

* I reflected at considerable length on the reality that, if any more of our insane "progress" toward socialism/chaos drives the U.S. economy any further down, such that I do become unable to support myself in my own home, I do prefer death to slavery. No food stamps, no housing projects, no bogus disability pension for me. Far be it from me to tell other people how they should answer the question, but for me, personally, if I can't market what I do well enough to feed myself, then it's time to stop eating.

This web site does of course realize that extreme frugality isn't doing the U.S. economy much good; this web site encourages those who don't have to practice extreme frugality to distribute their money in ways that will do good. (Send some of it to us.) This web site also wants everybody to be aware that poor Americans do have the option of practicing extreme frugality and, at least, not doing the U.S. economy any positive harm. Even if our bloat-crippled government is failing to ensure that you receive payment for what you've done, and our plague of social workers and bureaucrats is discouraging any prospective new clients from hiring you to do anything further, there are still honest and ethical alternatives to becoming a welfare recipient and dragging the economy further down than it's already gone.