Electronic tax

Tax season is over, but filing frustration is not.

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With hours before Monday’s midnight tax filing deadline, the IRS’ online account system was down, so a message was posted for users that read, “We’re sorry, due to increases traffic, this service may be temporarily unavailable.

And no, that wasn’t my typo for the word augmented. Misspelled taxpayer note increased. Guess someone was in such a rush to type out the notification that they inevitably introduced an error, providing a metaphor for how we taxpayers feel — overwhelmed, frustrated, and mad as hell.

This typo symbolized a flawed US tax filing system, with tired staff taking on a huge workload.

People pay to have their tax returns prepared because Form 1040 — and most IRS schedules and forms — are incomprehensible to a normal person. You cannot easily reach a live person at the IRS to ask even the most basic question. Millions of returns are stuck in a backlog, fueling the anger of people like those tormented in the Fifth Circle of Hell in Dante’s “Inferno.”

Opinion: Frustrated with the IRS? Call a Republican.

Why wouldn’t the IRS have enough capacity to handle last-minute requests from taxpayers trying to find the information they need to file their returns?

People were redirected to another system to make tax payments, with a warning that if they couldn’t use the IRS’ online payment system, they were still responsible for receiving their payments on time. .

In the past, many US Postal Service offices across the country were open until midnight on the April deadline, with staff sometimes lining up outside to pick up and sign people’s tax returns. who did not need to leave their vehicle. How many people greeted with this online message about timely payments just gave up and didn’t deposit or pay?

Google Trends reported that the top searches on Tax Day each year are: “How can I submit a tax extension request?”

Of course, there was going to be an increase in traffic on D-Day, which the agency would have to be able to plan for to avoid access disruptions. And it’s not just procrastinators trying to watch their accounts. I’ve heard of dozens of readers having trouble e-filing before the April 18 deadline. Many people have reported trying to use their IRS online account to double-check their 2020 adjusted gross income, so they can file electronically.

The real reason the IRS is behind in processing tax returns

Stories of taxpayer woe abounded.

“I just got an invoice from the IRS for my 2020 tax return, it took them almost a year to process it,” wrote Di Quynn Reno of Queenstown, Maryland. “The calculations on my original return were incorrect, so I owe about $250. ”

Here is the absurdity of the invoice that this taxpayer received: “They charge me interest because they consider it a late payment.”

Another reader sent me a frustrated email: “Why isn’t the tax system working, commissioner?” Why it does not work ?

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig posted a message to taxpayers on April 18.

“Millions of returns are pending processing and billions of refunds have yet to be distributed,” Rettig wrote. “It has been a frustrating season for many people, including those still waiting for us to process their tax returns from last year, those who filed amended returns, those facing delays and those who tried to call our phone lines and experienced long wait times. – if they could pass at all. It’s also frustrating for all of us at the IRS.

In large part, Rettig blamed the agency’s insufficient budget.

Opinion: The IRS urgently needs more money and staff

“Unfortunately, our already limited resources are stretched – and continued underfunding has significantly hampered the service we are able to provide,” he said. “Over the past decade, the IRS budget has fallen by more than 15% in real terms.”

It’s not just about the budget deficit. The problem starts with the set The IRS filing system, which is so impenetrable that millions of Americans feel like they have no choice but to use paid tax software to file their returns.

But what if the IRS started the filing process for you?

“Every year when your W-2s and 1099s arrive in the mail, your employer has already sent a copy to the government,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) video tweet on the tax preparation industry released a few days before the tax filing deadline. “So it’s no secret. The government already knows how much you earn before they file your taxes. So instead of doing all the scrambling, math, and late April nights, the IRS could just send you a pre-populated tax form based on the information they already have.

Warren says people could just confirm the information and then send the tax form back.

But not as lucrative for companies that profit generously from the complexity of the US tax filing system.

Marian Wiggins of Alexandria, Va. filed a paper return this year on purpose. It’s her way of protesting that she has to pay to file electronically.

If your adjusted gross household income was $73,000 or less last year, you qualify for the IRS Free File program, which is a public-private partnership between the agency and tax preparation and filing software companies.

“My household income exceeds the ‘free deposit’ threshold,” Wiggins wrote. “It’s a ridiculous sham in the name of capitalism. If free e-filing was available to everyone, you would drastically reduce paper filing. But right now I’m using a stamp and USPS.

If there was ever a time to push free-for-all filing, it’s now. Yes, the covid issues have pushed an already broken system to the brink, but the commercialization of tax preparation is a vicious circle that we need to be rescued from.