Monday, April 11, 2005

Tax time

This past Sunday Haley and I went for another trip to the Poconos. But before we did that I knew there was something I had to do, something I had been putting off for a long time: my taxes.

Late Saturday night I pulled out the oversized Ziplock bag that held my fairly small pile of tax stuff and got down to business. W2's, here. (My company changed corporate identity in 2004, so we all got two W2 forms.) 1099-INT's, here. (Pathetically small. Bad year for interest-bearing investments.) 1040...there?

This year my 1040 was a small, folded-up pamphlet thing. I opened it up and looked at it. It was a TeleFile form, which would allow me to quickly and easily do my taxes over the phone. Well, what the hell, I thought, let's give it a shot.

(A word of advice: doing your taxes via the automated telephone system while watching - and listening to - Saturday Night Live is probably not the best idea in the world.)

The IRS is pushing TeleFile pretty hard. "The Convenient Way To File", the pamphlet announces. "TeleFile is the most convenient, quickest, and simplest way for you to file your federal tax return...We encourage you to try TeleFile because we know that once you do, you will continue to use it for as long as you qualify. Of all the filing options people can choose to file their taxes, TeleFile has the highest satisfaction rate at over 80%."

And you know what? It was all true. Zip, zip, zip, in and out, nobody gets hurt, taxes done, refund on the way. Super!

And at the end of the process there was a recorded message: "Thank you for using TeleFile. This is the last year TeleFile will be offered as an option."

I didn't roll in that irony for too long, 'cause now it was off to do State taxes. Another phone form, essentially the same process as the Federal taxes, with a few more pointless questions. Got to the end, owed $12. Time to use form PA-V to remit my taxes owed. Round off to the nearest dollar. Do not use cents. OK, not a problem...but why does form PA-V include blanks for cents? For that matter, why does form PA-V include blanks for seven digits of dollars? Would someone who owes $1,000,000.00 in state taxes be using form PA-V? And what form does someone who owes more than $9,999,999.00 use?

Local tax is the most tedious, even though it ultimately amounts to just finding the right figure for "Local wages" on my W2 and multiplying by 1% (that is, dividing by 100.) Compare it to my Local taxes withheld and see if I'm a winner or a loser. This year I'm a loser. Overpaid by 12 cents. No quibbling permitted either way for any amounts under a dollar, and I've come out ahead so many years in a row, they were long overdue...but then I got to thinking: what if everyone in the city overpaid their taxes by 12 cents? Where does that money go? OK, it's not a lot of money, but still...

So now I'm done with my taxes, at least until next year. What fun.

If you haven't done yours yet, better hurry! The deadline is this Friday*!

*Friday. Friday. Not Thursday, despite what other temporal versions of this blog may have told you. The current version is superior. The current version is always superior.

I'd feel worse if I'd said Friday, and tax day really was Thursday.

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