Parenting

What my house looks like during tax season

The Mendes family tries to stay organized this tax season.

Photo: AnthonyRosenberg/iStockphoto

Every April, the scene at our house is exactly the same.

We’ll be sitting down and watching TV when an H&R Block commercial comes on the screen, serving as a gentle reminder that tax season is upon us.

Then another two weeks will go by and I will turn to Sonia and say, “You know — we really need to get our tax stuff together.”

Ten days after that, we are in full scramble mode. It’s not uncommon to hear the following questions being asked inside our house:

“Have you seen my T-4 slip?”

“Where did you file my notice of assessment from last year?”

“Can we write off our overdue library charges as a charitable donation?”

We are extremely disorganized when it comes to household paperwork and it all comes to a head at tax time. We often just throw our mail into a large pile that we affectionately call a POC — which stands for Pile of Crap. And inevitably, when we need to find an important document, the answer is “Check the POC.”  The beauty is that we often have several POCs around the house and sometimes when we’re expecting company, we throw our POCs into a laundry basket and hide them in the closet.

This week, I was searching for my 2012 Notice of Assessment from the Government of Canada and I found it in a POC that included the following:

  • A receipt from a Thai restaurant in Pittsburgh from 2009
  • A series of unopened envelopes from World Vision
  • An October issue of Chatelaine
  • Three notepads from the same local real estate agent
  • My 2010 driver’s license renewal form
  • The city calendar for garbage/recycling collection
  • The instruction manual for a Baby Leap Pad — which I didn’t realize we owned

In our relationship, I always figured that Sonia would be the one to be super organized because she was always so detail-oriented. Back in university, she used to take thorough and copious notes during a lecture, while my notebook looked like the scrawling of a deranged lunatic. But once we had kids, her plate became so overflowed with laundry and Kraft Dinner that she simply didn’t have the time and energy to take care of the paperwork.

And Sonia always figured I would be the one to handle the household finances and tax stuff because I was good with numbers. But she quickly found out that my ability to quickly calculate a goaltender’s save percentage bore little relevance to the world of personal financial planning.

I will admit there are times when my lack of attention to detail is beneficial to the family. Like when we’re playing a game of Monoply Junior and I forget to collect my $2 when I pass Go because I’m too busy trying to check Twitter.

But on the whole, my lack of attention to detail is probably a bad thing. Fortunately, we’ve got an accountant who does our taxes every year and I’m sure he would not be the least bit surprised to read this blog. He often requests simple paperwork from us and we basically send him an automated email that says someone will get respond to his query in the next three to five business days.

We are truly trying to change our ways, but as most of you know, old habits die hard. I recently purchased a book called Family Inc. which is about turning your home life into an office. This book suggests that couples should apply office strategies inside the home to help handle the paperwork and clutter that often clogs up a family’s home. They discuss the idea of holding weekly agenda meetings, delegating responsibilities and streamlining household tasks in an effort to run the home like a well-oiled office.

I am certainly looking forward to reading this book with Sonia — once I figure out where I left it. I have a feeling it’s buried in a POC inside one of our closets.