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World of Finance – Tax Returns

By • Mar 18th, 2009 • Category: Tax

Everyone who gets a migraine filling out their Federal tax return, raise your hand!

Did you know that all of the rules and regulations pertaining to the IRS tax return fills sixty feet of book shelf space? Yes indeed. This gives us an immediate clue as to why filing a Federal tax return isn’t simple. Tax preparation software is supposed to solve this problem, but it’s not foolproof. Should you misinterpret a question and supply the wrong answer, you’ll hear about it from the IRS just when you’re expecting that envelope to contain your refund or stimulus check. This can be an infuriating, not to mention disappointing experience.

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Image by Martin Haesemeyer via Flickr

Many years ago, former Governor Jerry Brown made a bid for the Presidency. One of his innovative ideas was to make tax filing easy, using a straight percentage of 10% of your income, no matter who you were, regardless of income level. This sounded like a great idea, but it never materialized.

Having years of experience working as an accountant, you’d think I’d have no trouble wading through the infamous 1040 tax booklet. Although the IRS provides an estimated time required to prepare each section, they must be dreaming or their estimate assumes you’re using software. Perhaps I’m just too careful. There are just too many potential pitfalls, so I read the booklet, usually three times, so that when my Federal tax filing is sent off, I believe with all my heart it’s right. It’s funny that that old adage, ‘close enough for government work’ does not apply to your Federal tax return.

The reason I read the booklet instead of relying on software, is that any little detail can blow the whole effort. It’s always best to be careful, right? Well, one serious flaw in the booklet is that it’s not written in plain English. It’s riddled with IRS jargon, double negatives and the like. It’s also not presented sequentially, probably due to that sixty feet of shelf space. You’re shuttled from one worksheet to another and then back to where you started. By the time you’ve made all the calculations, your head is throbbing and you have no idea what the figure on that line of the Federal tax return represents! It’s unwise to decide you need a break, because by the time you come back to it, you no longer know what the heck they’re talking about. Wasn’t it Charlie Brown who famously uttered, “Aaaaargh!”

Death and taxes. Both are unavoidable. However, wouldn’t it be nice if our government decided to take pity on us poor taxpayers and deliver a booklet in plain English and an abbreviated form. Here’s your income line, next your deduction amount and a straight percentage rate of tax. This is my idea of a dream Federal tax return. How about you? Maybe if our Congressional and Senatorial representatives were deluged with taxpayer requests for a kinder, gentler taxation system, they’d listen. We can only hope.

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 World of Finance   Tax Returns

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