Two summers ago, my sister got married and moved to Oklahoma. I know, I know – I didn’t technically “lose a sister,” as the saying goes. What I really lost was my tax consultant.
Yes, my sister, the family’s accountant, has done my taxes for as long as I have had a taxable income (notably, my mom offered to do my taxes one year and then informed me that I hadn’t even made enough money to file).
No longer can I dump my documents in the lap of a ready and willing human computer, all for the easy price of breakfast somewhere with bottomless coffee and a table large enough to spread out my W-9’s.
I am sure I am not alone in East County in my frustration with filing taxes. Even with changes made to the forms under the new administration, Congress is already promising to complicate things again, according to Vox, by prohibiting the IRS from simplifying the filing process through free tax preparation software – something that could save millions of Americans the expense of using a privatized tax preparer like TurboTax or H&R Block.
In Europe, filing taxes can take as little as fifteen minutes with pre-filled forms and saved tax profiles, all completed online. In the US, it takes eight hours on average and roughly $110 per filer.
Last year, I tried submitting online through a third party. After several attempts to submit my federal filing, I was informed that the birthdate on my social security did not match.
“I challenge anyone to wait on hold with the Social Security Administration for an hour, only to be told to visit a local office, not to become a Libertarian by the end of the phone call,” a friend of mine recently wrote.
It is comforting to know that I was not the only victim of the hour-long holding process at the Social Security Administration.
To correct the government’s mistake, I had to obtain another copy of my birth certificate (in person) and then bring it to my local social security office (in person). By the time I had jumped these hoops and paperwork had cleared on the government’s end, the filing deadline had already passed and my online forms on the third party website were unsubmittable. We had to redo everything by hand and send it by snail mail.
Granted, this is an example of extenuating circumstances, but the stress and frustration associated with filing taxes in general is one of the few things that still unites our increasingly divided population.
No one likes taxes.
Now, I am not here to preach against taxes – I fully recognize their role as the oil greasing the cogs of this societal machine. Taxes pave our roads, support our troops and compensate our public servants. (For the sake of neutrality, I won’t talk about the taxes going towards constructing large edifices – say, for example, a wall – or funding privatized or controversial organizations like Planned Parenthood, nor will I address the issue of less constitutional taxes like the property tax which, in essence, makes it impossible for Americans to ever truly own anything.)
No, for now, we will simply agree that, no matter how our taxes are used or where they come from, filing them is a ridiculous process and the least our government can do is make it easier on us, the people they serve.