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Tax day meta-post - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Tax day meta-post [Apr. 18th, 2007|12:19 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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[Current Mood |relievedrelieved]

So tax day just got over. Here's a round-up of some interesting posts and some of my own thoughts.

First, some humor from Phdcomics. Via rfc9000.

More humor, this time from the Onion. U.S. Asks Africa Not To Cash Aid Checks Until After Tax Day. Appropriately enough, this is how I found out that tax day was on the 17th this year.

Some silliness, from Brian Hayes, about replacing the piecewise linear tax code using polynomial interpolation. On a slightly more serious note, Barry Cipra points out in a comment that the tax code is in fact so messed up that the money you make after taxes is not even monotonically increasing, and so in some situations it incentivizes you to earn less.

Moving on to weightier matters, The Ethical Werewolf discusses a policy idea from John Edwards:
if the IRS already has all the information it needs to do your taxes, as it does for about 50 million Americans, why don't we spare you the trouble and have the IRS do your taxes by itself? The IRS would then just send you "Form 1" in the mail, telling you how much you owe or how big your refund is, and you'd sign it and return it. Studies suggest that this would save Americans approximately 225 million hours of tax-related drudgery.

I think this is an excellent idea. Consider this idiotic rebuttal from some republicans:
I think one of the best things conservatives could do to make people realize just how bad our tax burden is would be to require all taxpayers to file and pay taxes quarterly. The current insidious system of employer withholding was designed to collect income taxes without taxpayers feeling the pain of writing a check.
If people are such sheep that they'll happily pay taxes as long as it's not explicit, then they deserve what's coming to them.

Turbo tax vs TaxCut. I tried both this year. I think taxcut is better for several reasons:
  • Turbotax holds your hand so much it gets in your way really quickly. I actually missed this year's $30 phone tax credit with turbotax but taxcut pointed it out.
  • Professional accountants apparently use and recomment taxcut.
  • Taxcut is cheaper. They also had a discount through my university credit union.
  • Taxcut's online thing works better with Firefox. Turbotax barely works.
Frustratingly, neither will handle 1040NR/NR-EZ forms (for nonresidents) and so I couldn't file federal tax online. And you can't file state tax online unless you file federal tax online. Foreigners are people too, assholes.

Austin midnight scene. (No, not that one :-) I wanted to check out what the post office looks like at midnight (for those who don't know, one post office per city is open until midnight on tax day.) I was there at about 11 pm. It was pretty interesting. Finding the place was a pain in the butt, but once I got close I just followed the other cars. There were USPS employees standing on the street collecting envelopes through your car window, just like a toll booth, except without the booth. There were multiple lanes, and they kept traffic flowing at a steady pace. Pretty neat. Of those who went into the post office, most seemed to want to file for an extension. Procrastination is a global pandemic!

So how did your tax day go? Did you finish long ago? Or did you make it in the nick of time? Expecting a fat refund check? Or paid through your nose? Cursing the government? Resigned? Like taxes? Eager to know!

[User Picture]From: haran
2007-04-19 03:54 am (UTC)
I actually finished mine about a week ago. I used Turbo Tax and just got a print out and sent it (since I'm technically a non-resident citizen living abroad, I can't file online). I thought about TaxCut but decided to go with TurboTax since thats basically what I used last year and I know that it works. Maybe I'll look at TaxCut next year. We got shafted this (on property taxes) because we sold our house. Frankly, I prefer the system in India of taxing at the source. I can't believe they don't have a more efficient system for this crap.

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From: (Anonymous)
2007-04-21 12:21 pm (UTC)
Dei Arvind! I forgot taxes completely da! Thanks for reminding :)
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-04-21 05:53 pm (UTC)
Man, you deserve an award in recognition of your unparalleled forgetfulness/procrastination :)
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-04-21 11:21 pm (UTC)


>> if the IRS already has all the information it needs to do your taxes, as it does for about 50 million Americans, why don't we spare you the trouble and have the IRS do your taxes by itself?

I heard from a friend that this is the way things work in many European countries. At the end of the tax year, the govt mails you a form. You can accept it and get your refund or pay what you owe OR you can send your own version of it with any additional income/deductions not included in the form.
Sure, these are smaller countries and they have ridiculous tax rates, but I like the system.

I guess the opposite is the Indian tax system, where the government has no idea about anything and paying tax is almost a voluntary thing :)

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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-04-21 11:26 pm (UTC)

Re: Taxes

I remember when I was a kid everyone in my block would come to my dad for free tax help. He'd try to convince them that not cheating on your taxes was a good thing. Obviously no one listened :) They just wanted to know what's the minimum they could get away with paying.
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