Four times a year, Estimated Quarterly Return time comes around. It’s something that most self employed people are well aware of, and hate thoroughly. On the fifteenth of January, April, June and September, I have to sit down and write a big check to the IRS (and yes, you’re right — those dates are not every three months, just another little way in which the government sticks it to you by making you pay early). And it always hurts to see that money for which I’ve worked so hard flow out of my bank account and into the government coffers.
In a recent meeting with my accountant, he mentioned that I could set up an account and have my quarterly payments deducted directly from my bank account. That’s not an idea that appeals to me. It’s not because I don’t want to give the IRS access to my bank account; after all, they can swoop in and seize it any time they want. It’s just, as I told him, that I want to feel the pain.
He laughed and called me a masochist, but that’s not it. I don’t enjoy the pain. But pain is there for a reason. There’s a rare medical condition called Riley-Day syndrome, in which people are born without the ability to feel pain. Those people often die young because, without pain to get their attention when they became injured or ill, they simply didn’t notice that something was seriously wrong.
There’s something seriously wrong with the tax system in this country (and most others). But nothing gets done about it because most people simply don’t notice. They don’t notice because of mandatory withholding; if you’re an employee, the taxes get deducted from your pay before you ever get it, so you never feel the pain of sitting down and writing that check. You never even realize how much of your money is being taken, because you don’t miss what you never had.
I don’t ever want to stop feeling the pain, because — like the victims of Riley-Day — I might not notice that things are getting worse and worse, until it’s too late. I just wish we could all feel the pain.