I finished my taxes on the 14th. A record for me. This is one of the first years where I didn’t file an extension.
The weird thing is that I like to do the taxes. I like understanding the way the system works.
Anyways, here are some quick thoughts on the process:
The Good… 1. Adobe wins big with the PDF format. They did a good job when they created the format, and it has only gotten better. I really like the forms that let you fill them in and then print them out. Once I saw that I then wondered if they could actually just take that data instead of printing it and sending it. Sure enough, they did think of that, and now the PDF forms are capable of sending data that is typed into them.
- California NetFile is so good. I hate that the Fed requires you to pay money to submit your tax forms on-line. This is a waste of our tax dollars! Fortunately, the Republic of California “gets it” and their system, NetFile is free, really well done, and fast. Although it isn’t the prettiest of apps, it is one of the better web apps that I have ever used. Very clear instructions. It took me under 15 minutes to go from start to finish. Well done. Oh yeah, and the final step uses those PDF forms that let you submit the data.
Overall, California is fairly advanced for eGovernment programs. I’m constantly pleased by how much you can do online in this state. When I first started filing taxes, they were years ahead of the Fed in using the PDF forms.
- (Maybe Florida, Texas, and Washington “get it” even more than California. No state income taxes 🙂
The Federal government needs to make an e-File system that is free. I refuse to pay $60 for some system that should be free since they are paid to actually perform this service. Also, even though this is the big evil government, I think they are easier to watch. I don’t trust the 30 or so companies that are providing this service to taxpayers. Who is watching all of them? The IRS can barely keep itself together, what is going to incent it to keep an eye on these other corps.
One other thing that could be improved is the basic criteria for the forms. Why do I have to go through questions related to Farm Income, ‘Mining Depletion’ or Drilling Writedowns? Surely they could separate those into separate forms. You could imagine a 1040 just for farmers. Then you just use the forms you need and they all sum up on one line on the 1040 for their respective section. This is one category where California is so much worse. The special interest writedowns are enormous and complicated.
I think more and more people will agree with this since they are now getting hit with AMT. The AMT calculations are full of these little questions which are poorly worded.
The last thing to mention is that I miss the opportunity to turn my return in at night. Last year, at the San Mateo Post Office, one of the postal workers was dressed up as Uncle Sam and collecting the returns from the cars that drove up. Nice touch. They should pay the postal people more. (and before you ask, no, I didn’t have a camera cell phone to get my picture with the guy so I could ‘moblog’ the experience 🙂