Tax Law Stumps The Stupid

According to Fox News the average tax filing time has increase to 28 hours and 30 minutes.

28 HOURS!! Are you kinding me?!?! What in God’s name could you possibly be doing for that long. I think I could read the entire 1040 instruction packet in like 2-3 hours… sharpen my pencils for 30 minutes… search for my calculator in vain for an hour… build an abacus in around 6 hours… what are you doing for the other 18 HOURS???

Seriously, though. This is the average return – not some self-employed day-trader that really should be using a CPA… this is middle class america with some capital gains and some child credits. So you’ve got capital gains: copying numbers from your 1099 form provided by your brokerage firm to your 1040. Child credits are harder because you have to do complex mathmatical equations like subtracking (that’s “take-a-ways”) the early refund tax check you got last summer. Is anyone else confused?

Ok let’s forget about the hard stuff: the 1040EZ (the EZ stands for EASY) is supposed to take 3 hours and 43 minutes to complete. You can’t even file a 1040EZ unless you make under a certain amount of money and you don’t have any of those other craze forms (like the afore mentioned 1099 form). It’s ONE PAGE. So unless you spent 2 hours searching for where you put your W2, I’m at a loss for how people can take that long as an AVERAGE. Some people do worse.

The Fox News articles then goes on as several other articles have done – lamenting our ever increasingly complex tax code (a noble cause) and then talking about how -gasp- it’s forcing people to turn to tax software to save them. Citing increased usage of tax software to prove this point. Uhm. What if people are using software not due to complexity but for other reasons like efiling? I used the online software from H&R block not because the tax code overwhelms me (a re-read publication 17 on dependants and learned about the lifetime learning credit that I can now claim from the IRS website instead of relying on their automated assistants) but because of the SPEED it allows. Sure it speeds up the filing some by doing the math for you, but then you can efile and direct deposit your refund to get your money back in MUCH faster.

Apparently I’m a speed demon when it comes to taxes because it took me under 2 hours to do my taxes last night including reading some documents from IRS website and restarting the process. You see i had guess-timated that i owed money and so i started filling out an extension (which is automatically granted for 4 months) until i realized that i was, in fact, getting a refund which prompted me to start over and file. I must say i was overall impressed with the H&R Block SW – though I found some of the “add-on services” funny. My favorites were the “why wait up to 2 weeks for your refund when we’ll advance you the money tommorrow all for the low fee of $70” and the “why pay with a credit card when you can use your checking account instead with a low $10 echeck fee”.

Really though, you don’t have to value your time very much to pay $35 to save 27 hours of you life. Heck it’s even free if you make less than $28,000 a year. All online so you don’t have to install (and then uninstall) anything. My real question is: if it takes 28.5 hours to file your taxes these days — how can you procratinate until the 15th any more?