Explaining Southern California's economy

Haven't done your taxes yet? Don't panic

Tax Preparers Help Last-Minute Filers As Tax Deadline Looms

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A pedestrian walks by an H & R Block office on April 15, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Despite having an extra three days to file your income taxes this year, an estimated 15 to 20 million people will wait to the very last minute to file their taxes with a high number relying on tax preparation services.

Taxpayers are getting a bit more time this year to file their federal income tax returns. It's Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia today — that's the day the slaves were freed in D.C. — so federal offices, including the IRS, are closed. And because April 15 fell on a Sunday, the government has to give taxpayers an extra day. So this year, Tax Day will be Tuesday, April 17. 

That's tomorrow! If you haven't done your taxes yet, don't freak out. There's till time and it's not as big a hassle as you might think. You just need to use technology.

I'm old enough to have filed 1040-EZ forms by hand and both 1040 short and long forms, with a variety of schedules, also by hand. In the mid-1990s, I obtained the services of an accountant and we enjoyed a happy collaboration for around 15 years. But then I decided to go back to doing my taxes myself, mainly because I was bumping up against the deadline and didn't think I'd have time to get everything ready for my tax guy, but also because I was curious about tax-preparation software.

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Why the IRS needs our pity

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The top of a form 1040 individual income tax return.

The Internal Revenue Service: As tax season kicks off, we're reminded that no other federal agency is held in higher contempt. But the IRS is struggling with issues beyond its image. According to this story in USA Today, its "budget is too small and its workload too heavy" for the IRS to do its job. And this is while additional cuts to the IRS budget are being considered by Congress:

Driving the IRS workload increase is increasing complexity of federal tax laws and regulations and frequent changes in the tax code — an estimated 579 changes in 2010 alone that had to be explained to taxpayers, entered in IRS computers and added to the agency's auditor training programs.

Ah, the complexity bugaboo. This may increase the IRS workload, but given that tax collections are the government's main source of revenue, this is a problem that urgently needs solving. Especially for people like me, who advocate for a far more complex tax code, managed by more powerful technology.

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