April 15: Two Steps Forward. One Step Back.

It has been almost three years since I established The Deliberate Agrarian and started writing here about “Faith, Family & Livin’ The Good Life.” It was many months before I said anything about my Whizbang Chicken Plucker plan book. That’s because I did not begin these writings with the intention of promoting my books.

But, as the story of that book (and the others I’ve self published) came out, I discovered something remarkable about blogging… it’s a great way to spread the word about your home business. The Google search engines have been good to me. People stop by every day to read the past essays about how my family raises and processes chickens in our backyard with the Whizbang Plucking machine, and the Whizbang Automatic Chicken Scalder. As a result, I have sold quite a few books. Better yet, I have sold quite a few parts to people who decided to make their own chicken plucker.

In fact, many of you who are reading this now have purchased one or more products from me in the past three years. For that, I am very grateful. Thank you.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I have a dream. I have even referred to it as a vision. It is certainly my daily prayer….. Lord, my heart’s desire is to own some rural acreage—40 to 100 acres—a mix of woods and some field.

I desire a section of land greater than the 1.5 acre lot I now own so I can husband it. I want to care for the woods in a sustainable way. I want to plant trees and blueberry bushes, and have a raspberry patch, and a garlic patch, and a strawberry patch, and a big vegetable patch, and a small vineyard, and maybe I’ll even try my hand at growing apples again. In other words, I want to make the land productive. I have a strong yearning to do this. I feel it is a calling.

But more than that, I feel a desire to establish this acreage as some sort of a family trust. It would be a place that my children and grandchildren could visit and enjoy and use it for their own down-to-earth “dominion” projects. Perhaps we could all live on the land. I don’t know. But it would be a homestead base with a lot of possibilities for the generations. And, not incidentally, I see this land as a base of hospitality and Christian outreach.

It is with this dream, this vision, in my mind and heart that I am working to write books and make project parts to sell to people. My full time job as a state government employee supports my family. My part-time home business supports itself and gives me money to put towards the land I hope to get one day.

I am under the conviction that I should not go into debt for the land. I am also under the conviction that I should not strive too hard for the dream. I should work hard. I should save money for the purpose. But I should not strive so hard that I neglect my responsibilities as a father and husband. I could easily do that (I have done so in the past). And I am under the conviction that the Lord will provide according to His will, in His time. So I need to be patient. I need to be content with what I have (and I am).

I'm fully cognizant of the possibility that I may never own a section of land, as is my hope and dream. Or, it may be that, by the time I do own it, I’ll be too old to carry out the projects I have in mind. It may be a dream that my son’s see to fruition. But I will play my part in the story. I have planted the seed of the dream in their hearts and minds. And I will continue to save with the goal before me.

That said, last year was a good year for my home business. It was, in fact, good enough that I had trouble keeping up with orders. My little part-time job has turned into a bigger, full-time job. I pretty much have two full-time jobs now. But the one is a home-based business, and I can involve my family in it. This is part of my vision too—to establish a family economy of some sort. And, of course, with land, the idea of a family economy can take on a whole new dimension.

I have related these things to you because they are on my mind. I feel the Lord is blessing me in the area of creativity and entrepreneurship, and I desire to acknowledge that I see and believe such blessings are entirely from Him. And I am very thankful.

Now I want to tell you what happened two days ago. It was Saturday and I was working around the house. Marlene went to town to take care of some errands. One of those errands was to pick up our 2007 taxes from the accountant. They are due tomorrow, April 15. He waited until the end to get the finished paperwork to us.

When Marlene got home she told me I was not going to be pleased with the bottom line. I figured I would owe some money. Like I said, it had been a good year. But I was not prepared for the reality of my tax bill. I was stunned.

I had to sit down.

Seated in a chair in the living room, I stared blankly into space and thought for some time about my taxes and all the money the government wanted from me. All that hard-earned money. The government was going to take my gain from all those hours and hours of making parts in my shop and filling orders.

It was about 1:00 in the afternoon and the thought actually crossed my mind that I just wanted to go to bed, pull the covers over my head, and go to sleep.

A spirit of depression was knocking on the door of my heart. I’ve been there before. I’ve been through financial problems in the past. It is not a good memory.

And then I came to my senses. Two things entered my mind: First, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21). Second, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (I Corinthians 16:13).

“Quit you like men” is King-James language for “Don’t be a baby about it. Suck it up. Act like a man.”

The true bottom line is that money and land and my dreams are of secondary importance. What is most important is that I keep my focus. Not a focus on my bank account. Not a focus on what money can buy or do for me, or even what it can “do for God.” But a focus on the things that money can’t buy.

What is important is that I focus on my personal responsibilities as a father and husband and child of God. What is important is that I focus on who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for me. What is important is that I give Him thanks for His grace, His mercy, and His many blessings. What is important is that I think and act more like Jesus Christ every day. What is important is that I trust Him completely.

In short, what is important is that I bring glory to the Lord in the life I live. And more often than not, money (the desire for more of it, an excess of it, or the love of it) gets in the way of that.

So, money and the things money can buy are secondary. Either I believe that, or I don’t. Either I act on that belief, or I don’t.

In the end, I am thankful for this situation. It has helped bring a degree of perspective that I needed.

For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised.
Psalm 96:4

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P.S. It is not like I made a LOT of money with my little home business. I really didn’t (if I did, I’d quit the state job). But I made enough that I felt like I was on the verge of really “getting ahead.” I felt like if it kept up, I might, Lord willing, have enough to seriously consider buying land in maybe another five years.

If you have ever had a business of your own, and it started making some money, and you got socked with a surprisingly big tax payment (most of which is the 15% social security “contribution”), you know what a shock it can be to think you made a certain amount, only to find you made a whole lot less.

Oh, and I realize my story of tax woe is not unique. We’re all in the same boat. The reality of it just hits some of us harder at times.

21 comments:

mark said...

You too, huh. If all taxpayers had to write one big check to the goverment, like small businesses do. there would be another revolution. The problem is that they hide it in withholding, and people never see it. The goverment claims to want people to succeed, then they punish you for it. This is why there is such a huge black market. Leviathon always wants more. New York has particularly onerous taxes I've been told. Here in Missouri, they are less, but still hurt. I wonder what Joseph was thinking when he and Mary went to pay taxes. The dry irony of it is, you will probably get a pretty good "stimulus check" from the goverment. Then they will take it away in taxes. We have a stupid economy, and tax system It's a long way from Jeffersons Republic these days, isn't it?

Ginny said...

I understand, but I praise the Lord with you that He brought those verses to your mind and that something wonderful is coming out of it. This is one of those "all things"... Keep your eyes on Him and look forward to your permanent home, brother. :-D

James said...

It's not very Christ-like... but that verse is the ONLY thing that keeps me from cheating on taxes. I'd make a terrible accountant, because the temptation to ignore the Lord's requirement and cheat would be constant and powerful. I suppose that it is a symptom of larger heart issues: like hate and bitterness. Another "rough place" that needs to be "made plain".
JF

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Mark-
I thought that same thing...the system survives because most taxpayers never see the money taken out of their pay. If they actually had it and then had to give it up, there would surely be a revolution. It might happen anyway.

ginny-
Thanks.

james-
The temptation is certainly there and I'd bet that the vast majority of small-scale, self-employed people who deal with cash (i.e. hairdressers, restaurants, etc.) are not paying taxes on their full income. And then there are those who, for various reasons, intentionally do not file or pay any income tax. I know a few. I've listened to their rational for not paying. Put me on a jury in a case against a tax protester and I wouldn't find them guilty. Our government is more like the criminal. Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Herrick,

Have you read the essay 'The Law' by Bastiat? The government is indeed the plunderer.

I feel for you. Have you considered incorporation? At the minimum go talk to an accountant about the different legal ways you can structure your business to come out better on the tax situation.

Good luck and hang in there. You inspire me to do better.

Homestead Herbs said...

You and I must be symbiotically connected! You took the thoughts and words right out of my mouth- the dreams of property and stewardship, the home business while keeping the full time job, the feeling of getting ahead only to have it pinched and deflated when the tax man comes calling. But keeping trying to keep in perspective where the importance lies. We are His and are to live as He would want us to. Aren't we told "...sell whatever you have and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven, take up the cross, and follow Me" (Mark 10:21) Guess He wants me poor! :-)

Actually, one of the consistent thoughts running through my mind since I realized I had to pay so much to our government was whether keeping the corporate job is really cost effective- seems I have to spend a whole lot because of the job than I would if I was eking out a living off the land... I mean just the cost of the corporate wardrobe is a full months wage for some! :-)

Anonymous said...

The problem you folks have is that you are making a profit. I'd be happy to give you advice on how not to make a profit, something I have down to a fine art :)

Scott Terry

Homestead Herbs said...

Scott,
Haha!! Go on then, share your wisdom! Obviously, we're in dire need of it.

Ginny said...

Scott, Thanks for the laugh! Actually, I was thinking something along those lines, too. ;-)

Herrick Kimball said...

Hello annonymous,
Yes, I read Bastiat's "The Law" many years ago. It is a timeless little volume that should be required reading in schools. But I don't suppose the government schools would ever want to teach such truths about the nature of government. I think I should read it again. Thanks.

Homestead Herbs-
There is a lot to be said for being "poor." It tends to keep us more humble, which is not such a bad thing. :-)

But, as you know, being poor is a relative condition. Just look at the food riots in Haiti. The fact is--and this also occurred to me as I was contemplating my tax bill--all my true "needs" in life are met. My family has food, shelter, and much more. Anything beyond that is like frosting on the cake. The frosting is good, but it isn't always good for you. :-)

Hey Scott-
At my core, I'm not a profit-driven person. But it's hard to buy land without making the money to do so. No doubt, God can supply His children in other ways, and I'm open to those possibilities. But for now, to work within the capitalist system (without being consumed by it)to earn and save is the only option I see before me.

Homestead Herbs said...

Herrick,
You are right and I should know it better than most. We live a life of luxury here in the US compared to most overseas. Thanks for the reminder!

(I really only wanted to put lots of comments on your blog! :-) )

Beautiful Each Day said...

"The frosting is good, but it isn't always good for you. "

Well said!

-Robin

Garth & Ildi Fout said...

I agree with Scott. Showing loss, or little, is the key. There are many ways that you can legally show that you make very little. I save EVERY receipt and have my tax consultant work through it. Example: last year I moved across the U.S. All $7000.00 of it was a write-off!

We always get a huge return. I think it might be the children :)

With packaging, shipping, printing...you should be able to count up quite a bit of expenditures.

I don't want to take away what the Lord is showing you though. And I agree that He will see you through. He does have your best interest in mind, no matter what it looks like from our perspective.

garth

Andy & Kelli said...

Herrick,
I've enjoyed your blog - I'm gonna copy your picker - likely buy the fingers from you (unless you want to send them to me free and claim a loss) - and enjoy your thoughts.
Couple of things popped to mind when I read your entry here:
1 - Since you are in NYS - if you made more than $10K off your "farm activities" - you can claim agriculture status and receive significant NYS tax breaks... you can also buy a lot of the things you use for farming and the lot as "tax exempt" - granted that's sales tax - but it helps.
2 - If you are buying things tax exempt (or even not) for the "farm" - you can then depreciate those assets over several years on your Federal return.
3 - the comment to "save your receipts" is key - EVERYTHING you buy in support of your business is deductible - a portion of your electric - your Internet access - all of it - deductible - because it's under business use.
4 - I understand your feeling about debt - but there are some forms of good debt that can help you decrease your tax burden - a land purchase is NOT one of them - but a mortgage or home equity line is one of them - and there are was to go about that safely.

I could go on and on - but my point is - you would probably server yourself well and spend the best $200 you have ever spent by sitting down with a quality CPA and discuss how to structure your farming business in a way that offers you the most in the form of tax shelters. Ultimately - you will have to pay taxes - but you may be surprised how an expert can save you a lot more than you ever thought was possible.

I'm at
www.bluebirdmeadowfarms.com
come visit!

Barb said...

Awesome post, as a one income family of a small business owner, we feel your pain. Even with great CPAs, write-offs and deductions, there is no getting around the 15% social security tax. The tax system is just not set up to be nice to small business owners, we've been doing this for 15 years now and April 15th can be a difficult day for most of us! Hang in there though, you're doing a great good by making products that encourage the small homesteader and writing essays that feed the soul. I enjoy it.

P~ said...

Hi, I just found your blog, and wanted to let you know how much I liked it. I've read about your chicken processing, pluckers, and horse chow, but I really look forward to more. I can empathize on the taxes, but the price of an honest mans wage is far less indeed than that of a beggars. Peace to you and yours.
P~

Tameson O'Brien said...

Dude, sorry about your taxes. It might help next (this) year to file quarterly - doesn't hurt so much at the end of the year that way.

Anonymous said...

If it helps to ease the pain, that 15% Social Security portion is not a tax nor an expense item. It is an investment in your future. Depending on your longevity, you will get all of it back plus 'interest'.

HMK

Anonymous said...

The Social Security portion IS A TAX! It is far from an investment. Most of us will never see a dime of it. The money goes right in the general fund with all the rest of taxes. It all goes to pay interest on the debt. There is no "account" with "your money" in it. Its a scam.

Scott

Herrick Kimball said...

Hey everyone,

Thanks again for your helpful and encouraging responses to this blog.

I will say that I keep every receipt for deductible expenses. I even have receipts for 15 cents that I used. My tax preparer is a CPA and is supposed to know his business. But I am probably going to try another next year. More than $10,000 farm income on 1.5 acres (most of which is woods) is difficult to do when I have two full time jobs. But that is the objective one day when I get more land. As for Social Security being an investment... I think it is actually more of a Ponzi scheme. Those who got in the system first make out better than those who come in last. It looks like the rules will change and people like me will be paid off with inflated dollars, or worse. In any event, I hope not to ever draw a cent from SS, as I consider it an immoral government subsidy. That is, I need to add, my opinion and not a condemnation of anyone who gets a SS check. Many people, including my father, would be destitute without it.

sharpy said...

Herrick,
My brother introduced me to your blog. We will be using your plucker to process at least 100 chickens this summer and pigs of our own, etc... I am a definite believer in Christian agrarianism.

I recently left my government job (school teacher) and became self employed doing home remodeling. With the downturn in economy it turned out to be the worst time to do that and we are struggling with money/tax/calling issues a lot lately.

Your posting was an encouragement to me and helped me to remember to focus on what is important. We do have everything we need. I appreciate our transparent honesty in what you have shared. I love the "quit yourself like a man" verse, and will probably add that to the list of life verses that are important to me. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility to provide for my family and in awe of my total reliance to God to provide the means to do that.

Thanks again,

Doug Sharp