According to one statistic from my state, 92% of income tax returns are filed electronically. However, this year - for the first time in my life - I did our taxes with paper and pen, mailed them in, and became one of the 8%.
Time it'll take to get my return back? 6-8 weeks.
It’s an awkward story full of small personal mistakes. But it led me to wonder - How did the American tax system become the most complicated tax system in the world?
Why does it take the average American 13 hours of their life to prepare for settling up with Uncle Sam before April 15th?
Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes!
This year, one form accounting for $6 in dividends being taxed at 10% (because I accidentally went over on my Roth) caused our entire tax return to be “out of scope” for the person I regularly complete my taxes with.
As a result, I had to spend hours finding the forms online, printing them, manually writing on them, and then mailing the whole beast in. I could have e-filed, but all of the information was completed. It seems counter-intuitive, but manually filing was honestly the quickest solution.
(I’m crossing my fingers it works because we are getting a lot back. I gave a big loan to the government throughout the year because I’m part imbecile - ha.)
In certain years, we’ve ended up still paying in a large chunk, even after filing zero at our full-time jobs. (Owe more than a thousand? It’s your fault. You might get fined. The government has thousands upon thousands of your dollars on April 15th? No biggie.)
Since we’ve scaled back on our side-hustles, we’re starting to get a lot back.
That I want - right now.
Back to the Helpful Man Who Said I Was “Out of Scope”
I stared at him blankly.
“What does out of scope mean?”
“It means I can’t file your taxes or be associated with this.”
“But they're done. We just spent 2 hours figuring out every last number!”
“You will have to redo them yourself.”
He could see my disappointment. The whole situation was starting to make me think abstractly....uh-oh.
“These are small details that waste people’s lives!”
Then he went all growth mindset on me and said it would be an interesting chance to learn something new.
So I did.
I learned about the history of the tax system itself (stay tuned for Part 2) so I could be less upset about my own piddly situation.
Next week we’ll talk about Lincoln, Taft, Wilson and how a document of 11,400 words became a code of 4 million.
Have you ever made a mistake with your taxes? Have you ever thought you were done only to find out you had to start over?