Sunday, March 6, 2022

Your federal return was accepted

When I first came to the US I was aware that Income Tax was a big issue. Of course we pay taxes in Ireland, but compared to the US we are pretty much spoon fed. Deductions are made from our income with little or no input from us, almost everything is taxed at source and tax time is just a matter of filling in a form in case we have extra deductions, or income the tax man is not aware of. This is optional, you do not have to do this unless you are requested to do so, by the IRS. Nothing like the huge task it is here. 

When I was living in Ireland, Americans were known for their very loud voices and constantly complaining about taxes, so I knew taxes were not simple here. My first year in the US tax system was complicated because I had lived and worked in Ireland for exactly half of the year and lived in the US for the second half but working was somewhat unconventional, despite the fact that I had a green card. Two months in summer camp for pocket money, then three months 'off the books', and finally, in December, I started working in the system. That year I did the dreaded and very unfamiliar tax return by hand. It was painful and stressful. Forms of any kind stress me. I got it done and I was not audited that year. That was tax year 1994.

During the following year I bought a state of the art, 486 computer. It came with some free software, including Intuit's Quicken. I used Quicken for my household accounts for the next twenty years, upgrading every couple of years.  Because I was using Quicken, it was a no brainer that I would also use Turbro Tax to do my taxes. 

I stopped using Quicken when Intuit sold it and the new owners made changes to the software that destroyed it, in my opinion.

I used Turbo Tax until 2015 when I switched to H&RBlock software. I made the switch because I had a somewhat complicated year in tax year 2014 with employee shares vesting and sold for the first time in my life and a change in employer after thirteen years. 

I was offered a free copy of H&RBlock and so did my taxes with both Turbo Tax and H&RBlock that year. I discovered that while it was not quite so easy with H&RBlock, the refund was slightly larger. I wrote about that here. Since then, the interface has improved drastically and I continue to use it.

I absolutely hate tax time. I start to get stressed about it around October time. I purchase the latest version of the tax software as soon as it is available, then constantly open and update it, until mid February. By then I have most of the tax forms required to complete a first run. Then I wait some more, for further updates to the software and for the last of the tax forms to come it. Finally I finish. Then I wait some more. I am always afraid to submit the completed form for fear there is something wrong with it. So I check and double check. Finally I electronically submit it and wait. When I get that message back "Your federal return was accepted" I can breath a sigh of relief.

At least I do live in Texas where there is no State tax. I lived in California for two tax years and that was so much more complicated. Having to do both Federal and State returns was double pain.

This year was also a little more complicated, as I retired at the end of May and switched to Medicare and stopped earning a salary. I am hopeful that next year will be a lot easier but I suspect it will also be the first year that we will not have a refund and will probably have to pay the tax man. Why is that?

When my mother in law moved in with us, I also did her taxes for her. an elderly widow, not exactly retired as she never actually worked, but definitely not earning anything other than social security. I wrote here about her taxes always resulting in her owing the IRS. Of course, if she had more tax deducted from her social security payments, that possibly would not be the case, but that was such a small amount in the first place. I fail to understand why you would pay into social security all your working life, retire and start drawing from that only to be taxed on it again. It doesn't make any sense to me.

And on a more personal note, I had twice the stress doing two sets of taxes, plus my MIL was never happy that she owed money and made me feel like it was my fault. I did feel bad about it. I just don't get how badly the US treats it's elderly. 

Take for instance, Medicare. That doesn't cover any dental or vision costs whatsoever. Which means the US don't believe old people need teeth, nor do they need to be able to see. The only way to get these benefits is to pay extra for supplemental insurance.

I guess I just proved I am turning into an American, obsessed with taxes. At least now I have a better understanding of why it is something to complain about, it is not the payment of the tax, it is the preparation of the returns that is the problem.

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