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> Why the hell is the tax code so damn complicated that it requires certified experts and special software to perform personal tax filings?

My response is:

>Nah, you're missing the forest when looking at the trees. Go bigger.

Why are we even having to file our own taxes? The IRS already checks everything. They have all the information that you enter into these systems (in fact, turbo tax has frequently had my W2 before my employer gives it to me, as well as many other documents).

So having us, or some middleman, doing it is double work. Let the IRS do it (because they determine if there is fraud or not), they send you a copy and you send it back either as is or with modifications.

If taxes are done this way who cares how complicated it is? (I'll hedge that in that it is harder to check the IRS's work, but I think less people care about this)




Stolen from Twitter [1]:

"Government: You owe us money. It’s called taxes.

Me: How much do I owe?

Gov’t: You have to figure that out.

Me: I just pay what I want?

Gov’t: Oh, no we know exactly how much you owe. But you have to guess that number too.

Me: What if I get it wrong?

Gov’t: You go to prison"

[1] https://twitter.com/jordan_stratton/status/11181414550616719...


I'm very happy this sentiment is becoming more common. It is just insane when you think about it.


I don't think the IRS sends people to prison for filing incorrectly. There's a difference between misreading the instructions and “willfully [making and subscribing] any return, statement, or other document, which contains or is verified by a written declaration that is made under the penalties of perjury, and which he does not believe to be true and correct as to every material matter.”


You realize that only a portion of people get audited right?

Sure, your government could calculate everyone's taxes but I'm guessing those taxes would need to go up...


The IRS does in fact compare the data you send them to the data they have. Presumably the IRS, famous for it's computer system, isn't hand-checking every return.


The government does exactly that for the majority of tax residents in most countries in the world. US, with its Byzantine tax return system, is an outlier.


Try filing your taxes using different numbers than on your W2/1099 and see what happens.

I guarantee you'll get a discrepancy letter.


Why are we even having to file our own taxes?

Supposedly a political gambit from the right. The idea is if paying your taxes is painless, you will cease to notice them. But the more painful paying them becomes, the more attention you will pay to what you are paying, and then the more you will object & vote to lower your taxes.


I've heard this too, but also that Regan supported this style of taxing. Which seems like part of the Republican ideal: cut out the middle man.


A Planet Money episode went into this. It's basically:

- We (R) don't want taxes

- We will make filing taxes the most cumbersome thing possible

- People will hate taxes


I helped my sister do her taxes this year, since it was her first year. We just used the H&R block software since that is what I used to mine.

They rejected her return because I kicked two of the numbers on the EIN of one of her employers. The rejection was quick too, as we got the email about 20 minutes after submitting the return.

I always knew that the IRS checked your return, but I always figured it was something that eventually happened. I didn't think they checked everything as you submitted it. I don't know why I though that. Guess I pictured the IRS computer as an old IBM S/360 with core memory that did everything in batches.


> I don't know why I though that. Guess I pictured the IRS computer as an old IBM S/360 with core memory that did everything in batches.

I think that idea is common. But why wouldn't they automate it with modern(ish) hardware? It saves them money to do that. Just like it saves H&R block by creating a program. In fact I'm more surprised that H&R didn't flag it before you hit submit.


There's something to be said for making sure the government is doing it accurately. I bet there's a lot of people for whom the IRS is wrong about. Also, if you have other income with no W2 it needs to be reported.


> There's something to be said for making sure the government is doing it accurately.

>> Let the IRS do it, they send you a copy and you send it back either as is or with modifications.

That's why you check it.

And to respond to a possible next question, do we trust TurboTax (or others) more?

> Also, if you have other income with no W2 it needs to be reported.

All those other forms that are handed to you are ALSO already handed to the IRS. For example the 1099. The W2 was an easily verifiable example of how they already have this information before you receive it. The gov already has copies of all those forms. So really as tax payers we're paying for the IRS to do our taxes and we're paying for companies like TurboTax to do it as well (assuming you don't do it yourself)


It's a bit more complicated than that. For example, rental income and capital gains on sales of property or owned items don't typically have reported forms associated with them. But for probably 90% of tax filers, the IRS should already have everything it needs and know the exact amount owed.


That's fair, but I think if it works in 90% of cases that's a huge win. And it seems like it'd be pretty easy to close that gap (with multiple solution methods).


100% agree. A simple "here's what we think you owe" postcard for 90% of people and a "we think you might have unreported income based on your bank transactions - please fill out a full 1040" for the other 10% would be a massive improvement over today's system.


Right now the system is that everyone gets a "we think you might have unreported income" and I don't see any problem with that.

What I don't understand is why we can't have the IRS running their own tax prep website. The government seems to be capable of running other websites just fine.




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