Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reloading, Revenue, and Resolutions

   While it is nice to have the craziness of the holidays done for another year, it is never as simple as one might hope. I was really looking forward to things getting back to "normal" after New Year's but, of course, that has yet to happen. Each season brings it's own challenges.

   Not all challenges are unwelcome, of course! Over the holiday my mother sent a generous gift box that included some reloading tools and supplies. With the hunting season over, the gardens in frost, and backpacking season not quite here (for me, at least), it seems that now is a great time to get out the reloading gear, take inventory, and practice reloading a few rounds. In doing so I made the realization that some of the supplies I was handed down last year were not what I thought they were. I still had enough of everything to do most of what I wanted to do. The new tools were a nice upgrade and made the whole process more accurate and efficient. I find myself low on a couple supplies and needing to stock up on some items.

   This won't happen as soon as I might like...

   My work schedule has settled down from the erratic holiday shuffle, but in a strange twist of events I find myself working more for less pay. It's a long story of restructuring and adjusting pay schedules to deal with the fact that people are going out less and not spending as much, but the end result is that most of this month I am working five nights a week and making less than I did working two nights a year ago. I need to talk with my employers about this to try and sort out a solution.

   To make matters just a little worse, I was contacted by the state Department of Revenue recently regarding my "business" and informed that I am liable for two and a half years of back taxes. Here's the backstory in a nut: about a decade ago I became self-employed as I began earning an income as an entertainer. I have worked for several companies but, for the most part, I work for one company at a time who makes my schedule and dictates pay. It's a lot like being an employee, without the benefits (welcome to entertainment). Before moving to Washington in 2008, I worked like this over the course of living in two different states, but I also traveled and did some work in a handful of other states. I've always filed and paid my taxes accordingly. Upon moving to Washington State I continued working as I had the past seven years. At the beginning of 2009 I filed my taxes and was told Washington has no income tax. In 2010 the state did an audit of the company I now work for and sent me a letter in November saying that my "business" (i.e. me) has been operating in the state without a license. I left several phone messages over a week before getting a call back to ask what exactly was going on. I was informed of the audit and told that, as a business, I needed to file for a license and pay taxes for any work done in the state dating back to 2002. When I said that this was all news to me and I had been working this way for several years out of at least two other states I was told, "you'll probably find that Washington doesn't do a lot of things quite the way other states do." Okay. When I asked how I was supposed to know that I needed to do any of the things of which I was now two and a half years delinquent I was informed that this was the most common way it worked: you do your job and eventually that state will find you. How fair and efficient, I thought.

   I now have all the paperwork done and have my business license. The next step is to file twelve quarters worth of back taxes before the end of the month. I sat down to do this yesterday, but with categories such as, "Slaughtering, Breaking and Processing Perishable Meat; Manufacturing Wheat into Flour, Soybean & Canola Processing", and, "Prescription Drug Warehousing; Bio/Alcohol Fuel, Split/Proc Dried Peas, or Mfg. Fresh Fruit and Veg." (seriously -- these are just two of many tax classifications taken directly from the state website), I was unable to find a classification into which my "business" fit. There is a telephone helpline, but it only operates during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. Hopefully I will be able to reach someone tomorrow who will walk me through the tax classifications and we will discover that I don't actually owe anything. Not likely, I know. Even if that did happen I am certain they would have a revision in place to include me by next quarter.

   The state tax thing comes at a particularly bad time as my wife and I had previously agreed that we would commit to one joint resolution this year to pay down our debt and, at the very least, pay off our credit cards. I hate that we have credit card debt. Before moving across country (again) in 2008, we had no credit card debt. Then the opportunity to return to the northwest presented itself. We knew that I would take a small pay decrease and that our cost of living would go up a little, but we had reason to believe my pay would go up after three months and we were able to find an affordable living situation. We financed much of the move with our credit cards expecting that we would be able to pay them off as we had when we moved to the east coast three years earlier. Instead, the housing bubble burst, the economy took a dive, and my pay has actually decreased over time. The result is that we still have credit card debt on top of school loans, a bank loan, and a hospital bill.

   Last year we were able to put away money to pay for a trip back east for a wedding in October. We also were able to finish outfitting ourselves for backpacking. While these things were done on tight budgets, the sum of those things represents a good chunk of cash and we realize that if we make the same commitment to paying down our debt we should make considerable progress over the course of the year.

   I have more on New Year Resolutions, but I will save that for next time, as well as an update on our tax situation.

   Happy New Year, everyone!

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