As far as I’m concerned, tax season is the federally mandated equivalent of putting on a paper dress and shivering in a cold room while you wait to hear how well you took care of things the year before. I am exposed with no way to hide what I usually keep under wraps.
As a rule, I put everything on my credit card, especially when I travel. It simplifies my record keeping. Every cup of coffee, every plane ticket, anything related to my work in any way goes on the card to help me track expenses. Unfortunately, some time between the 1st of January and the middle of April, I have to print out the year-end summary and hand it over. First to my husband and then the accountant.
Unfortunately, things never look quite the same in the harsh spotlight of tax season.
It's my money. I earn it and have a right to spend it, but looking at the chronological list of my expenditures, the tickets, the hotel charges, the airport meals and beverages and miscellaneous charges, even I am shocked. How on earth did I spend $250 in an airport before I ever got on a plane? Then I remember. My sunglasses were scratched so I had to get another pair. I needed a portable phone charger for my iPhone and a new memory card for my camera. I like Pringles.
Where did the $100 taxi charge come from? I would never have agreed to that. I mean, I don't think I would have, but Norway is an expensive country and you know how dark it is in those taxis.
Of course, I needed wireless on a 45-minute flight. How else would I upload photos to Facebook? Please. I’m a professional.
The printout is a sybaritic travel diary of true confession: Wine in Walla Walla. Macarons in Paris. Olive oil in Tuscany. Chocolate in Belgium. Truffle oil in Istria. Rum in Kauai. Silk. Cashmere. Duty free La Prairie.
But, in my defense, it’s also a record of the unavoidable. Like the underwear, shoes and clothing in the South of France when my luggage was lost. I certainly hadn’t planned to buy lingerie and ballet slippers in France but I didn’t crumble under the pressure and cry. No, I certainly did not. I kept calm and carried out.
The day-by-day record is uncomfortably revealing: New luggage. More new luggage. Another lens for my camera. More books and more eBooks for my Kindle. A warmer coat. A practical purse. More comfortable shoes. Better boots. Even better boots.
But, after it’s all said and done, after the questioning looks, the raised eyebrows and the inevitable lecture about income vs outflow; after the form is signed and mailed, I shrug it off. As far as I’m concerned my transaction history is like a trip to the gynecologist. Whatever’s there is my secret until the next examination.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” (available at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane,) blogs about antiques and collectibles at Treasure Hunting and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org