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Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Have Homework For The Next 9 Weeks!

At the beginning of summer, sometime around May or June, somebody mentioned to me that they work in H&R Block during the tax season. I got interested in the idea, mainly because it involved making some extra money on a flexible schedule. I found out more details, and then after thinking about it for some time, I enrolled myself in an H&R Block tax preparation class in June.

The class was not supposed to start until the middle of September, so I forgot about it after some time. This past week, I got a call from H&R Block reminding me that my class starts at 9 AM on September 11th. It is a Saturdays-only class that takes place over 9 Saturdays. If you have more time over the weekdays, you can take classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 9 weeks. Since I did not want to do that, I enrolled in this class that is just once a week.

But it combines three 3-hour sessions into a single day, so it is a 9-hour class. And I am stuck in it for the next 8 weeks! And this is not just a simple, formality of a class. It actually teaches you how to prepare taxes, so there is a lot of homework associated with each class. We are supposed to review the chapters that are going to be covered in each class, and complete all the exercises in those chapters before the session. The instructor will then go over them and answer any questions students have.

In the first class yesterday, we covered the first 3 chapters of our textbook, which is a 1000-page behemoth. It is paired with an equally large workbook with exercises. I have to find time in my busy weekday schedule to complete the next 3 chapters of the textbook and finish 3 chapters worth of exercises before next Saturday's class!

The students in this class ranged from 20 to 60 years of age. Some of them were already in the accounting field, and wanted to develop their skills a little more. Others were like me, professionals in other fields who want to broaden their horizons and possibly earn an extra income with H&R Block. The third set of people were people who seemingly had never done taxes in their lives, and thought it was some kind of black magic!

The instructor was not too impressive (she has been with H&R Block only for 3 years before this teaching stint), and just asked us to read the textbook in the class. She then worked on some of the exercises, and scored about an 80% in getting the answers right. The class was much more varied with some people following instructions correctly and getting the right answers while others seemed to have no idea what they were supposed to be doing.

The first three chapters are trivial as far as I was concerned. I am sure there will be challenging advanced topics in the future, but these three chapters were purely about doing basic arithmetic (transferring numbers from one box to another according to instructions, adding, subtracting and multiplying them with other numbers according to instructions, and then transferring the results to more boxes) according to simple English instructions. If you have trouble doing that, I have no idea how you can do anything advanced in tax preparation. I have a feeling about a third of the class will drop out within the next few weeks.

I have always prepared my own taxes ever since I came to this country more than 20 years ago. For a person with just a W-2, and simple deductions like home mortgage interest, and a few stock transactions to report capital gains on, preparing taxes can be boring, but not challenging. I don't have much respect for people who are too lazy or stupid to even do something that simple. But, I am reminded of a wise man who said, never call someone a fool, borrow money from them. I think I have found a better way to take advantage of a fool: I am going to prepare his taxes!

Anyways, that is about the only excitement in my life this week. Work returned to normal after the excitement of last week. Because of the relative calm and quiet, I was able to get some work done in my project instead of being forced to chase after ghosts, bugs and ghosts of bugs.

I also concluded my hunt for a better computer this year by buying a large external hard drive instead of a computer. I wrote a post about how computer prices stay resolutely and illogically high while component prices like those for hard disks are very low. Since my computer works fine apart from having run out of hard disk space, I decided to buy an external disk that will help me move some material that I seldom use off my laptop's internal disk to this external disk. I think I can extract a few more years of use out of my laptop that way.

My blog was not visited by anybody from any new country. Disappointing to some extent, but not very surprising at all. As for the upcoming week, whether there are posts will depend on whether I have any time left after getting my tax homework for next week squared away. In the meantime, it is time for me to do some chores around the house, and then start preparing for another week of work.

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