I got about halfway through using H&R Block to do my taxes when I got stuck trying to enter the correct deduction in at one point. I was trying to use the free edition of H&R Block because I couldn’t see my way to paying for it and after about 20 minutes of frustratingly unclear googling I gave up and decided that I was going to do my own taxes this year.
It has so far taken my about two hours every night for the last four nights to try to slog through all of my taxes. Ultimately, I’ve got to file a 1040 along with schedule B, C, and D and associated forms. I’m still not quite done. I’m very nervous about making some sort of mistake and triple-checking everything is quite cumbersome. (For example, do you know what precise percentage of your phone plan went towards business use in 2015? I do now.) If you don’t have a straightforward tax situation this takes a bunch of time. I can almost understand a refusal to sell investments on a basis that you then have to deal with them on your taxes!
All told I will probably save about $100 this year. Since having an accountant doing your taxes isn’t tax deductible this is like earning an extra $120 pre-tax for my tax bracket. As a second bonus I’m sure learning a great deal of the ins-and-outs of the tax code. It turns out, that for all the flak the IRS gets about being confusing is that it really just isn’t that bad. You just need to actually read the rules. Any literate person with the ability to work a pocket calculator can manage to do it. Additionally, the rules, once you understand them are actually pretty reasonable. (I almost feel as though I’m going to have my libertarian card revoked writing this, but fortunately we’re far too busy arguing about who gets to build the roads to police memberships.)
Two hours times four nights goes into 120 dollars how many times? Yeah, I’m doing this for $15 per hour (pre-tax equivalent earnings) and I’m still not done. Those aren’t good numbers, and did I mention that I haven’t even started on my state taxes yet? Whoops. Fortunately, I could just file an extension.
This is a cool little detail. If you need more time to file your federal tax return you can request an extension which will give you an extra six months to file your federal return. You need to fill out form 4868. It does not give you extra time to pay your taxes. Even though you might not know exactly how much you have to pay, you’d better get at least the right amount to the IRS before April 18th, 2016. Since most people expect a refund, you’ll probably not need to worry too much about that. I, however, always try to cut it as close as I can so that the IRS and I are even on by the last tax date.
Filing your own taxes is a pain. It’s probably something you should learn how to do correctly at least once in your life. While I’m not getting appropriately compensated for it, at least I know what goes into it in the future. At least in the future I’ll know what a fair price to pay for the service is!
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