The Taxing April Challenge
Thanks to the normal April 15 deadline falling on a Sunday and Emancipation Day (a legal holiday in Washington, D.C.) on a Monday, beleaguered taxpayers have two extra days this year to file their latest federal tax return.
I’m not sure how much help that will offer. This time of year generally induces panic among many, save those whose returns are so simple they can do the 1040 EZ. It’s been eons since I filed one of those.
For some reason, the approach of Tax Day brought to mind the year my parents were audited. The reasons are still unknown.
I was only about 10 and too young to fathom why they were digging through mounds of papers and exhibiting signs of stress. I only hope that I never have to experience the same thing.
For all the criticism he’s drawn of late, one thing I applaud President Trump for is doubling the standard deduction in the tax reform bill passed last December.
While we won’t know for sure until next year, it could bring a positive reduction in the paperwork many grapple with in mid-April.
I’m self-employed and have business expenses and other minutia for which to account.
So, our tax returns always require mounds of forms and extra postage (the prospect of identity theft one reason we opt for paper over electronic returns).
Such a reality is also a reason I regularly praise God in April for choosing to marry a spouse with an accounting degree.
While I double-check her figures and review everything to make sure nothing is amiss, my main function is signing the forms to attest they’re correct. Good thing I trust her.
Tax simplification is somewhat like gun control—lots of people want it, but the forces lined up against are so powerful it may never come to pass.
Of course, the “flat tax” idea gets trotted out periodically, like it did in the last presidential campaign. Then it seems to fade into the woodwork, awaiting its next resurrection four years later.
I’ve always felt one reason for the lack of traction such ideas generate is that those who would have to pass them never have to do their own returns.
Imagine rich and influential political leaders subjected to the same kind of stress that plagued my parents years ago (and many folks today). They might have a different take on the need for a less onerous exercise than the 1040 return.
Since they can pass everything to an accountant, what’s it to them?
Exercise in Futility
I realize that’s an oversimplification. Still, for the average person confronting multiple sources of potential confusion, completing a tax return is an exercise in hopelessness.
Recently, I recognized the panic it generated among two professional freelancers groups, where tax questions pop up like gophers on the prairie.
One writer in particular hadn’t received a 1099—a statement of total revenue paid for the year to a contractor—and was stressing out over it being past the deadline for the documentation.
Actually, as several folks replied, that’s not a cause for alarm. The writer wasn’t responsible for completing the form, but the company who supplied the work.
I already knew that, primarily because I rarely receive all the 1099s I should. But as long as I’m reporting all the revenue I receive, I don’t worry about someone not sending me a form.
Of course, this also makes me wonder who is tracking all the 1099s that should be sent, but never are. Probably the same department that oversees tax simplification.