I would like to consider myself a competent and independent woman, capable of handling most of what life throws with me. I am a graduate of West Point, a combat veteran, have traveled around the world, and birthed two babies, you would think a little number crunching and paperwork would be a walk in the park.

Nevertheless, every year tax time sends me into a frenzy.  I am a nervous wreck with shaking hands and sweaty palms. This is not an exaggeration. We take advantage of the free service provided on post and usually my husband can go with me to calm me and remind me to stop talking out of nervousness. This year, however he could not.

During this deployment, I have had to deal with two years worth of tax headaches. I think I have earned a pass for next year. Last year was a nightmare. We had to paper-file for the new home buyers credit and not once, but twice, they lost paperwork from our envelope. I spent several hours on the phone over 12 weeks talking to the customer service and was beginning to think the government didn’t want to pay our refund.

When, I was told to “just give it two more weeks,” I was livid. If we had owed them that kind of money I can almost guarantee they would not have been nearly that patient. I was finally referred to a place cleverly disguised inside a University of Phoenix building – a local office of the IRS. I had no idea they even existed. Miraculously, within 10 days of my visit we had our money.

I’m sure it was just as nerve-racking for my husband to have to entrust this task solely to me as it was for me to walk on wobbly legs into that building alone yesterday. I think this year I finally figured out that it is the refund that scares me.  Because of my husband’s deployment, he only earned $19 in taxable income last year after our other deductions.  So, we are again entitled to a hefty refund which always makes me skeptical.  I have been taught that if it is too good to be true, it probably is.  So, now I will sit on pins and needles waiting for that deposit to hit our account, signifying that the government actually agrees with the preparer and we are in fact entitled to this “free” money.

Logically, I know that it is because we overpaid taxes during those months he was not deployed, and the non-taxable income put us in a basically unemployed tax bracket, but I just cannot wrap my head around the idea of “free” money from the government.  Given how hard my husband worked for those $19 last year, this may finally be the year I don’t feel trepidation at the prospect of an influx of cash from Uncle Sam.

Now, what to do with it?  Assuming I can get past the paralyzing fear of an audit…


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