This is a cautionary tale for tax season. A real ‘do as I say, not as I do’ number. And seeing as the general public isn’t as neurotic as me trying to file their taxes before February is over, I’ll be able to save a few of you from thinking the very thought that struck me just a few days ago. And that thought was: should I file my taxes at Walmart? You most certainly should not. And this is why.
I’m a big believer that any Joe Blow can file taxes. Most people fire up TurboTax on their own and if they don’t, they’re just paying someone to enter the numbers from their W-2 into the very same software. Taxes are stupid as hell. They’re in that grand scope of things that I probably should’ve learned something about in school rather than spending several years studying geometry or memorizing the periodic table of elements. Guess how often I’ve used the Pythagorean theorem in real life? I’ll take NEVER for $1,000, Alex. (RIP) And as with anything that I have no knowledge of, I’m happy to pay someone else to do it for me…minus the happy part. The year during Covid when I was unemployed and living with my parents, I took a stab at doing my own taxes and upon answering their little pre-screening questionnaire I was informed by the Turbo Robot that I’d need to purchase the “Full Service” version in order to file. So like everything else in this cruel, cruel world…FREE was a big ole lie. And thus it was back to paying an older gentleman who knows how to enter numbers into a computer hundreds of dollars to type in those lil numbers and tell me that I owe more numbers. Yay! ADULTING!
So, as my first full year in New Jersey comes to a close (and my accountant being a New Yorker), I thought it was time for a fresh start. Last year I had to file federal, New York, and New Jersey. I owed all three, thanks for asking. You know what’s fun about moving out of state mid-year after collecting unemployment and also having an un-taxed side hustle? NOTHIN. NOTHIN I TELL YA. I also had to find a way to send all of my secure documents to my accountant in Central NY who told me email was cool. I know how Nigerian Princes steal your identity, my guy. After googling “secure portals” and texting him a password to access the docs, then paying him and all branches of the government all of my monies, I told myself 2022 was going to be my year. THE YEAR OF THE THICC TAX RETURN! How many times have you read this blog and cackled out loud when I declare that things are looking up for me? Be honest.
For reals though, I was super financially responsible last year. I paid off my student loans, bought out my car lease, managed to hang on to my state job, and hustled as a marketing maven on the side for straight cash, homie. And after the harsh realization that when you don’t have taxes being deducted from a self-employed paycheck, you still have to pay those…I PRE-PAID taxes. That’s right, baby! On four separate occasions last year I cut the IRS a Monsters Inc check. All signs were pointing to a meaty tax return and I was very excited to see those dollar signs cha-ching in front of my very eyes. Did that mean I was willing to pay a lot to file that return? Absolutely not. So when faced with the challenge of finding a tax guy here, I thought, wait a minute…don’t they have a jabroni stationed in the front of Walmart for all of tax season?! If it’s good enough for the people of Walmart, it’s good enough for me! And let me be clear, as I dive in to the stereotypical creatures of Wally World, this is very much coming from someone who loves shopping at Walmart. Those rollback prices *speak* to me and anytime I’m popping in for coffee creamer or dog food, I often find myself perusing the clothes department and leaving with a little treat for myself just for being alive and finding all of the deals. (DISCLAIMER: Even though I’m a woman of the people, I still feel it is my duty to warn you to never go to a Walmart on a Friday night. It’s House of Freaks up in there. I don’t know why Friday night specifically is the “don’t feed them after midnight” crowd but once you happen upon it one time, you’ll never want admission to that circus again.)
Now that we’ve established that I’m not above Walmart, let’s just go ahead and say what we’re all thinking here…there’s no way a tax professional doing business in a pop-up tent 10 paces away from the front door greeter is going to be charging an arm and a leg for filing the return of any commoner who happens to zip on by with their paperwork. And that’s how I found myself making a 4PM appointment on a Friday to file my taxes at the Walmart on 66. It was a little uppity of me to make an appointment but I was immediately humbled when I decided to sneak a return in beforehand. If you’ve ever had the unfortunate luck of visiting the customer service counter at a Walmart, you know that you will wait in a line of no less than 10 people, there will be 1 cashier, and the 3 people in front of you will most certainly always be wiring money to another country with minimal deets and a heavy language barrier. Bonus points if someone gets off line, asks the cashier if they can use their phone and stands at the front gabbing with their friend about how they’re waiting in line. (Shout out to East Syracuse for providing me with that very special experience.) I got there 15 minutes early and after waiting those entire 15 minutes to return an electric can opener that didn’t work, I rolled up to the tax tent right at 4 on the dot. Which meant nothing, as this fella had absolutely no clue I made an appointment and thought perhaps I took a number at the deli counter and it struck me that maybe I should also file my taxes while I’m here.
I’d like to paint a portrait for you, if I may. The man that was behind this blue curtain was quite possibly the most disheveled creature I’ve ever seen. If you had told me that they went out into the parking lot, saw someone living out there and asked him if he would perhaps like to type numbers into a computer, I would’ve absolutely believed you. He had dirt under his fingernails, bruises also under his nails, was wearing many many layers of clothing and had a real chaotic energy about him. Never judge a book by its cover but if we were to be in the book cover judgin game, this one was a scooch concerning. And instead of my internal sirens blaring, I pulled up a chair and handed him a folder of secure information about myself. Classic Salty Ju. I was planning on asking many questions before we kicked things off, one of them being, “how much is this going to cost?” and then I got flustered because stranger human interaction. The website said filing would start at $70 and seeing a number that low on top of the fact that this makeshift office was stationed directly across from a Subway, I anticipated this would cost $100 AT MOST. So I let her rip.
This chooch pawed through my paperwork, licking his fingers and tossing sheets back at me that he “wouldn’t need” at an alarming speed. He then manically starting throwing them in a scanner. We were about thirty seconds in and my papers were strewn all over his desk, dangerously close to his Mountain Dew and grease-stained five dollar foot long. He wrote down my social security number on one of them like he was adding milk to a scrap grocery list on the kitchen counter. Papers were flying as he fired questions at me–Are you filing jointly? Single? Any dependents? Seems like a touchy inquisition for a stranger to ask right on the heels of a holiday full of “my forever valentines” husband and baby Instagram posts shoved down my throat but ok sir, I’ll play along. Let’s just address all of my shortcomings up front: I’m single, I’m sure you peeped my DOB on my license, and I also rent, so no tax break for being a first time homeowner either. We then moved along to the tapping portion of this little sesh where the man with visibly shaking hands aggressively tapped the enter key over and over and over again. Another couple of shoppers lurked near the tent flap and he told them he’d be with them in 10-20 minutes, which is honestly a quicker turnover rate than the customer service line so look at him showing off!
Then we hit a snafu. “Enter” was not being finger-blasted and now he was looking up a number on his cellphone to call from his desk phone. Yeah that’s right, this folding table was decorated with not only an office-grade printer/scanner combo deal but ALSO a landline! If you’re impressed, feel free to take it down a notch by learning that his corporate office screens the Walmart satellite office phone calls. No answer so he called from his cellphone, which was immediately answered. As it turns out, bro needed to phone a friend. The software wasn’t behaving in the home office square footage portion of the entertainment. Through moral support and some more hammering of the ole enter key, we arrived at the grand finale. And wouldn’t you know…I OWE.
I asked him how this could be possible as 2022 was MY YEAR. The year of the juicy return! (And the return of the Juicy sweatsuit. Coincidental? I think not.) Where shall I vacation on my bonus money?! Evidently I should take a little day trip to the bank to make a hefty withdrawal from my savings to pay the gov. The same gov that’s in trillion billion million dollar debt and keeps porking us with inflation as a big bad recession looms overhead. Do I sound bitter? GOOD. I was beside myself at this little revelation that for yet ANOTHER year of just snaking by on two jobs, I’d be forced to fork even more over. My dude obviously did not care that I was about to turn on the waterworks in a Walmart and felt that this would be an ideal time to drop another bomb on me. He confidently declared that I owe that, PLUS the $500 for his services. Ex-squeeze me, hombre?
You mean to tell me that in 15 minutes of rat-a-tat-tatting, you earned FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?! The math ain’t mathin, homeslice. And folks, it deserves to be repeated (forever and ever times infinity) that he is at a WALMART. Bananas to his left, cashiers on his right, a blue curtain separating me from staring right into the burner phone storefront. I’m sure there’s an actual business name for this little spot but we all know this is where drug dealers and thieves stock up on their un-traceables. My jaw resided on the sticky floor. I’d been bamboozled. By a very unsavory looking character nonetheless. I told him under no circumstances could I afford to shell out $500 for this ordeal and he phoned his friend again to “see what they could do.” Friend of the program said he could lower it to $400. I’m sorry am I in a furniture store negotiating the price of a sofa sleeper or filing my taxes? If haggling is on the table, does that mean I can call up the President of this godforsaken country and do the same for my return? “Sup, Bides! While you were busy spending all my dough on flying spy balloons over China (yea that’s right, we did it too) and taking face-first diggers off your bike, I was working hard and I deserve about 2,000 buckeroos to take a tropical vacay at a time when my skin is translucent and my mental health is below sea level. Thanks so much, babes!”
Since neither the unpolished turd in front of me nor his slimy compadre on the phone would go any lower that four hundo OR give me a direct line to Pres Biden, I knew it was time for me to get the hell out of dodge. For once I could use my ignorance to weasel my way out of this kerfuffle. I recalled that price was never discussed up front and I imagine he saw my income and got creative with the quote, so without agreeing to anything, I didn’t think he could hold me to it and force me to file. I dug my heels in and firmly told him I wouldn’t be completing any transactions today. AKA I squeaked out no thank you while dripping in a flop sweat. He then told me he could put my return on hold and I could come back closer to April 18th because “it’s not like I was getting any money back anyway, so it didn’t matter when I filed.” Thanks for the reminder, Tax Satan. He also pointed out that by then, their price will go down even more. SCAM. SCAM I TELL YOU. He didn’t skip a beat in admitting that they’re gouging lovely people like myself to do about 15 minutes of work but if you wait it out a little longer, they’ll gladly give you a hefty dissy. He should’ve just outright said: Come back in April, bring me a liter of Cola and a fresh pretzel from the Philly Pretzel Factory next to the Patio & Garden department and we’ll call it even, hon.
I gathered my highly sensitive docs that he already had digital copies of (damn you, modern world), my dignity, and moonwalked out of there and right into the Subway where I got a FL Chicken Parm, Baked Lays and a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. Just kidding, I shamefully scampered past the receipt checker out to my car where I immediately speed-dialed my parents and cried. They told me to get my stuff–especially my social security number back from this hack and call their accountant. Nothing puts the fear of God in olds quite like my generation handing out our social security number like candy. My hopeful visions of skipping out of Walmart with the promise of an Italian Job level payout on April 18th and a cocky “I took care of it all on my own” vibe were trampled to death by a guy who could be mistaken for a meth dealer but apparently was a CPA. So in conclusion, if you’re thinking about boot scootin over to your local Walmarts for some budget-friendly accounting…maybe do anything but that.
Editors Note: Having my own blog has become an unruly monster of an excuse to demand family and friends take my photo wherever we go, because you never know when it’ll apply to a ridiculous salty story I’ve decided to tell and come in handy. I was stuck on what should be the feature photo for this little ditty when I remembered that in 2019, my family and I went to Walmart at midnight on Thanksgiving in our pj’s to mix and mingle with the Black Friday deals. I knew I looked like a trash panda and therefore said SNAP A PIC CAUSE I LOOK EMBARRASSING. And lo and behold, it was the perfect photo for this blog. I also wanted to make the clear distinction that although I’ve gone to WallyWorld in pajamas on many occasions, I was wearing my dressy sweats when I went last week to file my taxes. Had I gone to see an actual accountant I would’ve worn hard pants. I honestly felt like even sweats had me overdressed for the occasion, but I’m self aware enough to not insult the process by wearing Men’s Christmas punchbug fleece jammies for such official business.