Near Yellow Mountain

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Of death and taxes

April 15th is traditionally tax day in the US although due to a technicality this year you can wait until the 18th to file. All US citizens, no matter where you are living in the world, are required to file with the government and send in a check if the prior collections from employers or financial institutions did not give Uncle Sam his full pound of flesh. Of course it is true that a large % of American's get money back each year either because they foolishly allowed their "Uncle" to hold their money without interest over the course of the year or their income is below the tax paying threshold when their tax credits are calculated. A few, get back more than they paid in (only in America) but that is another topic and I digress........

Wanting to be certain I get no unwanted attention from our tax collecting agency, I usually file and send my additional "contribution" on April 14th by registered mail (or by DHL when we lived overseas). Yes, dear international reader, we Americans are one of the only - actually I think the only citizens on the planet that must pay taxes in our home country even when we are legal residents in another country. We paid dual tax (actually my company paid dual tax) during our ex-pat years....... my digressions continue.

Paying taxes leads the already stressed taxpayer to another stress causer - the US Postal Service. From my experience this week, I think the word "service" should be lower case if not totally eliminated. Going to the post office to ensure there is a traceable record of your tax payment provides further evidence of what many already sense - the idea that your tax dollars are "at work" is a comforting thought but the Post Office provides evidence to the contrary. To be clear, I know that many who spend their careers toiling for the "PO" are hard working people but I sense that this group may not be the majority. Anyway, next year I think I will spend a little more money and let the private sector guys from DHL get my tax payment to the IRS "Service" Center.

I left the Post Office and spent my afternoon in a more pleasant endeavor - playing golf with my brother in law. A man, who is now my hero and a "poster boy" for knowing when to retire. After a career in the military and another one in the private sector - my new model for "work life planning" turned in his "electronic leash" (aka Blackberry or IPhone); drove his company Lexus back to the dealer and decided to spend his last decades on earth doing "other things" that only he (or perhaps in certain cases his lovely bride) will determine. My hero was wise enough to save,  marry someone frugal enough to live a good life, raise and educate successful children and still have enough leftover to walk away while he can still strike the golf ball well. As we played the back 9, I inquired about the his decision to retire. The response was clear and without hesitation.

The next day as my wife and I played in a 9 hole couples golf outing; we heard the sirens of several emergency vehicles. We could not see them since the hole we were playing was some distance from the road. Later we found out that a well respected local judge had dropped to the ground on the hole across from our front door. He died shortly thereafter. I had not met this fellow member to our golf club but his death has already made an impression that will be hard to shake each morning as I start my morning run on the spot where his exit from this world began. Death and taxes.

The lesson from my brother in law was reinforced by a local official I will never get a chance to meet.