September 21, 2005


So this is tax time for lazy, unorganized people like me who file extensions till the last possible moment, and my life could, at the moment, be accurately described as "receipt hell."

I've got a couple of suggestions for a minor, but important, reform of this process. I realize that I'm blowing a great deal of my quasi-libertarian credibility by appealing to the state to mandate involuntary receipt reform from the top down. But as long as they force you to hang on to the damn things in the first place, the least they could do is make them easier to deal with and thereby make hell slightly less hellish.

First: the date should always be in the same place on the receipt. Top left, top right, bottom center - it doesn't matter where, as long as it's consistent. If you have a stack of a couple hundred gas receipts you're trying to put in date order, you never know where to look. Sometimes you pick one up and stare at it for what can seem like ages, still not finding it. "Date! Date!" you cry, angrily. "Come on, man: date!" Eventually you spot it, but not before you've lost a lot of time, a bit of your sanity, and most of what's left of your peace of mind. Would it be so hard to put it in the same place? Like, at the top?

The second suggestion: get rid of those disappearing receipts. For some reason that is entirely dark to me, the powers that be decided that it would be a good idea to print receipts on this flimsy, shiny paper that doesn't hold ink very well. And not only are they barely legible to begin with, but they are specially designed to fade with time, so that if you're doing your accounting a few months after the fact, you are left with a great many nearly blank pieces of paper. I'll tell you one thing - it's certainly a disincentive to eat at Denny's. And Hooters. The Union 76 people manage to print their receipts on regular old paper. Why can't everybody?

Ok. Back to Hell.

Posted by Dr. Frank at September 21, 2005 04:25 PM | TrackBack

When I worked as an independent contractor and didn't have taxes taken out of my checks, I was told that I had to save all my receipts. I never did because I can't really be bothered with being responsible enough to hang on to a little piece of paper. Anyway, when I went to get my taxes done, all I had to do for gas was fill out a mileage book. I'm sure for food and stuff, you need to have a receipt, but for gas, you don't. You just have to keep track of your mileage, how much gas you got, how much it cost and the the date you got it. I don't know if that's something you could do or already do...

Posted by: Amy 80 at September 21, 2005 06:01 PM

While we're wishing, I wish that when you paid a parking lot or garage (like I do every day) that you would get something, besides some miserable little ticket to stick on your dash, that would display the date and how much you paid. I could write that shit off as a work expense!

Posted by: Zaphod at September 21, 2005 06:17 PM

I'm going through the same hell Doctor, only it's only in my nightmares so far because I'm so lazy I haven't actually started physically compiling all the receipts yet.

Also, after your recent post about I Don't Need You Now, I threw Revenge into my CD player and realized that I love the following line from S.A. Girlfriend:

"almost too sharp but not quite"

Posted by: Hakker at September 21, 2005 06:22 PM

let me know if the IRS accepts Amy80's method of work-related expense claimage. I'll tell them I drove a million miles last year and they owe me big time.

Posted by: melody chest at September 21, 2005 07:13 PM

I have a wallet full of reciepts! They never make it to a filing system! Good Luck in Hell see ya there! ;)

Posted by: Catherine at September 21, 2005 07:57 PM

Do you guys get those receipts that just turn completely black? This has a happened to me quite a few times. They seem to be printed on regular white paper, but the portion where the ink should be just turns totally black, and covers up the entire side of the paper. I'm not sure what causes this, but I have always suspected that it has to do with me leaving receipts in the car, and the ink somehow melts and spreads across the paper.

Posted by: Oscar at September 21, 2005 08:00 PM

Regarding receipts and mileage: 1) Business related meals and entertainment expenses require the following to be proved: Date, amount and location. While these items can be derived from the receipt the following must also be substantiated: Reason for entertaining or brief nature of business discussion that took place and the name(s) or other information about the person or persons entertained to establish a business relationship to the taxpayer.

For claiming auto expenses, taxpayers may use the standard mileage rate (37.5 cents per mile in 2004) or actual expenses (gas, oil, maintenance, repairs, insurance, registration etc) prorated for business use. In either case you need to have written documentation of mileage to determine the percentage of business use of your vehicle. Once you adopt a method (actual, standard rate) you must continue to use the same method for that vehicle.

Posted by: Randy at September 21, 2005 08:09 PM

The IRS accepted it. They even gave me money back for doing it that way. I went through H&R Block and the person who did my taxes told me to only use one of the mileage books. I was worried about it really working so H&R Block signed off on my taxes. That way, if I ever get audited, H&R Block is responsible for any mistakes. But, that was 4 years ago and I've never heard anything from the IRS.

Posted by: Amy 80 at September 21, 2005 08:52 PM


Keep your income level under $6,000 so you don't have to file anything. I've only done my taxes once in the ten years since I should have started filing. Someday someone somewhere somehow might add up the freelance checks I've gotten and realize I owe a few grand, but by then I will have muscles built up so big that no prison bars could hold me. excuse me while i eat this egg and do a push up.

Posted by: Meldoy Chest at September 21, 2005 09:23 PM

I second the motion to ban the disappearing ink receipts. That kind of paper should only be used in situations where it's absolutely necessary, like for the minutes of Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force.

Posted by: Wes at September 22, 2005 12:05 PM

ewwww why havent they invented some sort of tax or reciept robot to do all this for you. the least they could give you is a helper monkey.

Posted by: wolverine at September 23, 2005 02:12 AM

Some advice from personal experience, Don't EVER get creative or clever with you f'ing taxes. hating paying taxes is fine, dickin' around with it will end in tears. And the bitch of it is, the longer it takes for them to catch your clever ass, the more you think it's all behind you and you've moved on, the more the interest has piled up on what the IRS feels you owe them. The really bad part being that, when you're dealing with the IRS (as I found), unlike most branches of the legal system, the burden of proof is on YOU. You heard right, you are guilty until YOU prove your self innocent. Good luck kids. Don't spend your 30's chompin' away at yet another debt.

Posted by: Mike L.A. (used to be BKLYN) at September 23, 2005 06:50 AM

Mike is right. Even if THEY screw up, it's up to YOU to prove it.

Posted by: Zaphod at September 23, 2005 01:26 PM

i hear you about the disappearing receipt thing. that really pisses me off. home depot receipts are like those magic ink papers for which i've lost the stupid marker for because i probably tested it one time and it didnt write so i just threw it out!

the funny thing is that you could probably associate a 7-figure dollar amount to the money home depot keeps every year because people can't return things for which they don't have their receipt.

Posted by: fan at September 23, 2005 09:26 PM

Oscar: That's thermal paper, for a thermal printer. And yes, it turns black because it got hot.

(They don't use ink; the print-head in the printer makes hot spots which turn the paper black.)

Posted by: Sigivald at September 26, 2005 08:20 PM

Thanks, Sigi. That explains it.

What a swell idea.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at September 26, 2005 08:33 PM

238281: Hey, does anyone know where I can find a list of gas stations with low prices in my area?

Posted by: Debra Riley at October 18, 2005 06:32 AM