Taxes and the Pursuit of Spiritual Practice

Working on income taxes brings out so many spiritual issues that there could be a book. Or maybe spiritual practices and personal development practices (as if they could be separated).

I’m working on mine. Yes, I know they are due in less than a week. But mine are a little complicated. I have a business with income and expenses and the like. On the personal side, my wife and I are reasonably generous and have many charitable deductions–our major personal deductions.

While pondering all my receipts and expenses, I thought of all the ethical decisions based on each item.

Is this truly charitable? Well, in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, is it truly charitable and deductible? This is both an ethics and a legal question. Deserves honest answers.

There are so many ways for a non-rich person to ignore income that was cash only or came in a variety of “off-the-books” ways. Not illegal, but not reported. More ethical decisions.

I use a tax preparation program. Fitting things into the categories has always been an intellectual exercise calling for yet another cup of coffee.

Yes, tax time is definitely moral inventory assessment time.

It’s also personal growth and productivity time.

I’ve written about Getting Things Done, Evernote, and Nozbe (my to-do list capture and productivity tool).

The first practice is to capture everything–idea, receipt, income, contract–in one trusted place. I keep almost no paper. I use Evernote for documents. I photograph or scan all receipts or use the cloud where possible. Send directly to Evernote. I link important things that relate to next actions from Evernote to Nozbe. Nozbe is my daily (hourly) reference for what I should do next. This one is easy–sit down, concentrate, do taxes!

This collecting process is the one thing that helps that few people do. Looking around for scattered notes and odd pieces of paper is time consuming and will definitely lead to your missing important documentation.

Good record keeping circles back to help on the ethics issue. You have the document and know what sort of income or expense. Of course, you still have to make decisions and do the work. Where’s that extra cup of coffee?

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