How Many Grueling Hours Could This Proposal Save YOU At Tax Time?
by Susan Wenger
Photo courtesy of Elan Sun Star
Solving one of Americaís aggravating problems
great plank for a political candidate
How long does it take the average American to fill out
his personal income tax forms? Of course it varies,
depending on the complexity, the number of subsidiary
schedules, whether he uses tax preparation software,
professional assistance, etc.
For everyone I know, itís
a time-consuming and harrowing ordeal. Even the simplest
EZ form is a nightmare for many people who use it without
knowing if theyíre doing it right, or who arenít great
shakes at arithmetic.
The Internal Revenue Service receives nearly all of the
same information that the taxpayer receives: statements
of earnings from employers, statements of dividends and
interest, profit/loss statements from investments, etc.
When an individual files his income tax return, IRS
checks it against the information they already have to
Since the IRS already has just about all the information the
citizen has, and it is all computerized, it makes sense
now for the IRS to take the first step to compute tax
liability and send it to the individual for
corroboration, corrections or additions. This would
alleviate the burden on the citizen for figuring out all
The individual would be held responsible
for supplying any missing data, including unreported
income as well as for adding additional deductions and
any information that would help lower his taxes. The
exception would be the Schedule A for itemized
deductions, but I think Schedule A is the only one that
the individual would need to be concerned with, and
everything else would be done for him.
Of course, under
this plan even Schedule A would only be filled out by the
individual if he chooses to do so; otherwise he would
receive the benefit of the standard deduction schedule.
The individual would then either fill in changes or not,
and sign the document and return it to IRS with a check
for money owed, or a request for money due back.
Elimination of the paperwork calculation burden alone
would make this a very welcome reform, and would save
most taxpayers the cost of hiring professionals to do
their taxes or purchasing tax preparation software to
weave through the increasing complexity of tax forms.
In addition, though, it would reduce the element of dread
from the process. People who are afraid that they might
overlook some item and GET IN TROUBLE would be relieved
of that dread. They would still be responsible and
liable for reporting unreported income, but that is a
diminishing small load for the average citizen.
I think that any political candidate who promised to push
such a change would get a lot of support, regardless of
his position on seemingly larger issues.
Note that this proposal does not affect any provisions of
the tax code, does not open or close any loopholes or
exemption categories it merely shifts the preparation
from the individual to the IRS, which does all that
calculation anyway, to ensure compliance.
If the IRS did it
first instead of having the taxpayer do it first, it
would simplify the process for millions of taxpayers, who
would not waive any rights to re-do it and make any
changes to their return that they see fit to make.
It would become a state-by-state issue whether the
numbers provided by the IRS and ratified by the citizen would
satisfy state income tax returns as well, but Iím sure
that if the IRS took the lead to do the initial paperwork,
most states would accept a copy of that for their own
needs as well, supplemented again by the individualís
right to make changes relative to their state return.
What a LOAD of time, work, frazzled nerves, and agony
this would save!
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