Log in Subscribe
Inside Out

Taxes might be certain, but what about mandatory?

Jeanne Sager
Posted 9/21/21

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

The first time you had to fill out a W2 or a W9, you just stared at the blank page before you like you’d been given a code without the cypher.

Don’t …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Inside Out

Taxes might be certain, but what about mandatory?

Posted

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

The first time you had to fill out a W2 or a W9, you just stared at the blank page before you like you’d been given a code without the cypher.

Don’t worry; this is a no shame zone. And you’re not exactly alone.

A few weeks ago I answered my phone only to hear a desperate teenager on the other end. She’d spent a weekend working for a local business and couldn’t make heads or tails of the paperwork she now had to fill out.

Fortunately, as a small business owner, I’ve become all-too familiar with W9s (those are the tax forms you fill out if you’re being paid 1099 -- aka the business isn’t taking taxes out, so you’re responsible for reporting your income to the government on your own). I was able to walk her through it…and explain when she arrived in my house (with my own teenager in tow) that the check she was flourishing was not in fact all hers to keep.

But this took years of trial and error…and Googling…and hiring lawyers and accountants to guide me through the process of making my business legal. I spent a lot of money to be only moderately good at filling out government forms.

In a 2018 survey completed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, only 29 percent of Americans had gotten any sort of financial education from high school, college, or the workplace.

That’s less than a third… spread out over years of possibilities. And that was literally any sort of financial education, so that could be something like the accounting class I admit I was lucky enough to take in high school…although it was an elective I was able to add only in my senior year because I’d jam-packed my schedule in the earlier years so tightly that there was an odd hole to fill.

Even with that class, I had no idea how to run the numbers to figure out my cost of doing business, how to figure out what sort of taxable entity I needed to create or even what I owed to the federal government without (pricey) help.

And we’re supposed to be surprised when our kids don’t know how to fill out basic forms? Or when grown adults are running businesses that are technically illegal?

I am hesitant to talk about this at times because, let’s face it, teachers have a lot on their plate. Even before they had to remind kids approximately 534 times a day to put that mask back on, we were asking them to keep our kids alive and make them acceptable for adult company come age 18.

My teenager is mandated to take three sessions of gym each week, every school year, non-negotiable. Certainly physical activity is important (please, gym teacher, this is not me coming for your jobs!), and I’m not advocating for an end to gym class.

But skipping a run won’t land you in jail. Not paying your taxes will.

If one can be mandatory for our kids, shouldn’t the other?

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here