Day by Day Cartoon by Chris Muir

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Just did the taxes

Just finished the federal and state tax returns for last year, and "e-filed" them.

It's a good thing I'm basically a peaceful person. Dealing with tax forms can turn a saint into a raving monster.

Wisconsin requires an "electronic copy" of your federal return in order to file Wisconsin taxes.
Why? If you file by mail, there's no requirement to send copies of the federal forms.

So, I did the federal e-file first.

The "free" federal e-file fill-in forms are apparently farmed out to some private outfit. How much of our tax money goes to this outfit?

They do a reasonably good job of digitizing the morass of IRS forms with hyperlinks to pull in the correct forms needed for the various lines.

Unfortunately, they don't tell you to NOT enter a zero on lines that correspond to forms you don't need to fill out. If you do this, there's no warning. The e-file goes through and you get an acknowledgement email saying the IRS will accept or deny the filing in a while.

Then you get another email from the IRS - "denied" - with a nice list of cryptic debug information that probably looks like some sort of Satanic incantation to people unfamiliar with programming.

So, I debugged - and discovered the lines I had entered a zero on raised a flag telling the IRS to expect the associated form, which didn't exist in the filing - so, denied.

Three iterations later, I got an email back - "filing successful".

Is this just a way of forcing Joe Public into H&R Block or Liberty Tax Service? I have to wonder if there's a connection between the "free" e-file and these guys.

Another irritation - when you tell the federal e-file to "print" the return, it just flickers the screen. Nothing comes out of the printer. After a few tries, I thought to look at the download folder - and there resided a few copies of the return - in PDF format. It would have been nice for the code to raise a message box telling you that!

The Wisconsin form was a bit more logical, but had some irritating features also. They require you to enter your W-2 forms manually, and do math on what you enter. The totals from the W-2s was $2 off from the federal forms for some reason. I hope I don't get audited for that.

I hope Governor Walker wasn't just blowing smoke when he suggested that Wisconsin repeal the income tax here. Getting rid of the bureaucracy and all the state (union?) employees needed to process the state income tax would likely give us another surplus we could use to pay off the last of Doyle's debts...

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