Shared Labour

My husband did the income tax this year. Rather, he reviewed, sorted, summarized and assembled the folder for the accountant who does the final paperwork. Normally I do it, but this year I decided he needed to remember how.

When we were first married, we would sit at our respective computers and make spreadsheets, then enter each other’s data to verify. Then QuickTax appeared. For a few years we mailed in the printouts. One year we took a disk to an accountant who did “EFile” and paid $15 for him to send it. (I think he also checked that the supporting documents existed.) The next year I think the government had a website that let us upload the file. Eventually, QuickTax talked to the government all on its own.

Several years ago, we changed financial advisers. The new one has handled my inlaws’ investments and taxes for years. Between Oma and us, someone in the family sees him every few months. He also does income tax, for only a little more than the cost of the QuickTax program.

The downside to this is neither of us have looked at the forms for years. Our lives have changed. We might be eligible for deductions that we ignored before. Fortunately, the guy knows our family. As our lives change, he points out the tax implications — usually to our benefit, like the Active Kids deduction.

During the year, I throw anything that might be tax-related into a tax folder. I have one for each year, plus one for Forever. The Forever one has things like stock purchases — we’ll need the info if we sell the stock, but not before.

The tax file for the year has the usual T4’s, T5’s and charitable receipts. It also has receipts for professional memberships, which would be useful if I made any money in those professions. (Storytelling and engineering.) It also has medical receipts, which would be useful if we spent more than $3000 on medical expenses. (We did that only one year, when Son was tested for ADHD and had 12 weeks of Sensory Integration therapy.)

Of course, I’m not entirely up to date with my filing. It’s all in my office, but not in the file. Some is in a pile on top of the filing cabinet. That’s not too bad. The bad is every few months I move everything off my desk into a “super-low priority” file — usually once per season. The intention is that I deal with them within another month or two. Reality is closer to a year. Fortunately, those files are usually sorted by date, (i.e., most recent stuff lands on top) so I can usually find things in them, provided I haven’t made an aborted attempt to “improve” them (i.e., put them in some other order, which made sense at the time).

I went through all that stuff and made sure the tax file was complete. Husband then went through the tax file and, well, he doesn’t work the same way I do. Says there was too much in it. (About half the papers didn’t get to the final envelope.) You’ll note he didn’t say, “Just give me all this stuff from now on and I’ll file it.”

The weekend reminded me when we were first married. He could could to feed himself. He couldn’t do laundry. He wanted me to take his name (something I’d already decided to do). His explanation was, if I was in the hospital he didn’t want to have to remember to say, “I’m here to see my wife, “Maiden Name.” I counter-blackmailed with “When I get home from the hospital, I don’t want to have to do a big pile of laundry.” He did enough loads that I knew he wouldn’t ruin things. (He’s good at putting his hand-knit socks in a mesh bag before putting them down the chute. It’s easier to pull out a bag than notice a few dark socks mixed in with the rest of the laundry. If he does laundry, he knows how to sort colours and set stretchy stuff aside. He’s also great at getting the laundry off the line not too long after the dew falls — which says something about how well I keep to my plans each day.)

We’ve entered all our receipts into Quicken since 1994. Yes, I can tell you how much we spent on kids’ clothing, and how much our grocery bill decreased when they were out of diapers. We don’t sub-divide it as finely as we used to, but we still enter every receipt. Sometimes I think it’s a waste of time, but it’s a shame to stop after all these years. It’s also useful to see just how much I’ve spent on yarn or nice lunches.

When we were first married, we took turns entering data and filing receipts. When I stayed home with the kids, I took over. The filing system has evolved over the years. In this house, the big file cabinets are in the basement, so I keep the current year up here on a shelf and prior years’ downstairs. All the files are labeled, and I try to do something that makes sense, but sometimes the mechanics break down — like with the “seasonal unfiled” stuff. The systems I put on top of the main system to keep things moving are just another layer of complication. (One file for urgent bills, another for receipts to enter, another for statements to reconcile. We won’t talk about the medical receipts / send to insurance file / check their reply file.)

It’s all stuff he’s capable of doing, but the system has evolved and is no longer suitable for shared use.

It reminds me of my parents. Dad is capable of doing any housework task (although is pure ADHD when it comes to paying bills). Mom does the bills and current files. Dad takes over when they go to long-term storage. Mom keeps her accounting files separate from hobby files. Dad sorts purely by alphabet, with coloured dots for category. Resistor Catalogs is beside Rent, one has a blue dot and the other green.

It’s good to organize your work in a way that makes sense to you, including which things you let slide and how you make sure they don’t slide too much. On the other hand, it’s also good to keep things up to date and uncomplicated, so someone else can take over if necessary.

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