Okay – before I get started, let me just say that I am not totally against paying taxes. I believe there are public costs associated with having roads, municipal buildings, cops on the street and other conveniences which we should all pitch in to pay for.
But what I am against – and what I'll be against until I hit the grave – is the process of figuring out our taxes. It just isn't fair.
Now, I've had this theory for quite some time (and maybe you have too). That if you were to take your tax return to 10 different tax preparers, you'd get 10 different results.
Turns out, there was a report commissioned by the US Government’s Accountability Office in 2006 to do just that. They brought the same taxes to 19 different preparers and found that “all 19 tax returns were wrong to some degree and that only two preparers correctly calculated the proper refund amount“. Pretty sad, huh?
To further prove this point, our local news station did a recent story comparing 3 leading tax preparation services. They got a guy with a wife and small child to fill out his taxes on each program. Guess what happened?
Every single return was different.
Now, I am no genius when it comes to this stuff. But, come on. In this day, there is no excuse for not having a process in place that makes paying taxes easy.
I know – we have TaxAct and other tax software programs. These are great. I actually just used TaxAct to do mine this year. But, even after using it, I typically get the feeling like I have done something wrong and cheated myself OR the government (if you can believe that). I’m serious though – I think the last time I felt I had done my taxes right I was in junior high and I filled out the 1040EZ!
This just shouldn’t be.
So, what are you to do? How do you make sure your taxes are right?
Here’s my suggestions:
- Obviously, the more complicated your taxes, the harder they'll be to get right. This is why it is vital to know what you can deduct and keep accurate records. If you own a rental home like we do, you need to keep track of all expenses related to it. This includes driving to the property, cleaning it, etc, etc. I have an Excel doc that is solely dedicated to keeping these expenses.
- Two sets of eyeballs is always better than one. If you do your own taxes, have your spouse check em over when you’re done. Perhaps they have knowledge about something that can be deducted or another charity you’ve given to.
- Use a pro. Obvious no-brainer here. But they will have knowledge of more deductions and tax law than you. I think the programs are going to be more pure with getting it all right than a person – but I still think they're good, because they give you another set of eyeballs (again). Note: they are probably going to be more expensive than any other preparation methods.
- Here’s my last suggestion. Write a note to your legistrator telling em you want tax reform. I’m all for a flat tax where everyone pays a fair share (I don’t use the roads more or less than a wealthy person and vice versa). Let em know that preparation is out of hand and there are too many inconsistencies.
Well, that’s my rant for this tax season. I’m sure you’re just as frustrated with taxes as I am.