Adventures in Tax Payments and Family Travel

We’ve been self employed for years, but we’re set up as a corporation, so mostly we’ve handled tax payments through withholding. Then our tax accountant told us about a different way to handle things which saves us money. It all makes sense, but it means that this is the first year that I’m paying estimated quarterly taxes. The first payment was due April 15, so I thought the second payment would be due July 15. Nope. June 15. I discovered this fact because fellow self-employed people were complaining on twitter. I confirmed it and then realized I was presented with a problem. All my accounting things are in Utah, including my checkbook. I am in California for another week. Truthfully it all could have waited a week. The government would probably not have argued with me if I willingly made payment before they had a chance to notice that it was late. But I don’t like to be late on this sort of thing. It makes me anxious.

This sort of thing is exactly why we planned this trip with Kiki going home to hold down the fort. She flew home this morning, which meant that I could call the house and walk her through the process of finding and filling out the necessary payment coupon. Howard was at home to sign the check. (I suppose if Kiki had not been there, I would have walked Howard through the process, but Kiki is really good about going into assistant mode these days. Howard’s assistant mode is really rusty. The dynamic feels backward.) I had the money ready and waiting because of the past few months of careful budgeting. In a way it was all reassuring. There was a problem, an important thing that was left undone, and then thirty minutes later the thing was done. It makes me feel like I might be competent at least a little bit.

I’ve spent some time looking at how I arranged this trip and examining why I made the choices that I did. I’m rarely certain that I’ve chosen right because I can see so many other options. Howard stayed home, which is the lowest stress option for him. It allowed him to recover from being sick and hopefully will allow him to rebuild the buffer. Yet I know that he misses out on some of the bonding which happens with a family trip. Much of that bonding occurs precisely because the trip is stressful. Less stress = missed shared experiences. I can’t see a way to have both. Knowing that I was sending Kiki back to manage the online store was the only way I could feel good about being absent for so long. The last time I spent two weeks away from home it was 1999 and we didn’t have a time-dependent home business. Even there though, I wonder how much of my decision making is driven by unreasonable anxiety. The world would not end if packages waited an extra week. So many of my urgent business tasks are far less urgent than they feel on a daily basis. It is only when I put myself in a position where I can’t jump and solve an issue at a moment’s notice that I’m aware how much of my day is spent jumping to solve issues as if they are emergencies. On this trip I jump and then don’t have any of my tools, so the next few minutes are spent explaining to myself why it will all be fine anyway. So far I’ve been gone for five days. There have been some lovely, long relaxed hours. There have also been hours where my brain jolted with adrenaline five or eleven times because of things remembered or half-remembered that for an instant had me convinced that disaster would result because I could not manage them right away. Those were not my favorite hours.

As of today the reunion part of the trip is over. Most of the relatives have departed home. My parents are off to Hawaii for their golden honeymoon. My sister has settled in to be with my Grandma until Thursday. Then we’ll trade off and I will stay with Grandma until my parents return the next week. That makes today the settling-in day. It is the day when I let the kids watch too much TV and play too many video games. I breathe deep and decide how I am going to spend the time between now and the day when I’m on duty to take care of Grandma. It is the day when I talk Kiki through the business processes that she’ll manage while I’m away. It is also the day where I think through how I arranged this trip and face my guilt that I put Howard and Kiki at home to work while I’m away with the other three kids. I picked the option with minimal work disruption instead of maximal family togetherness. I have to think about that choice. Because there need to be times when I arrange it the other way around. Of course, I could have just said no to the entire trip which would have resulted in zero life disruption and zero extended family togetherness. We all would have missed much with that choice.

I have more thinking to do, but after today we’ll have several outing days in a row which will likely interfere with the thinking. That in itself might be a good thing, as I probably think too much. For today, the kids are playing with cousins, Kiki traveled home safely, Howard is no longer alone in the house, and the taxes are paid. I’ll count that good enough for now.