Tuesday, February 09, 2010


...and speaking of charging me a fee for saving you money, eFiling of taxes (both federal and state) should be saving the government a lot more time and money than it'll save me. Actually, it doesn't really save me anything. The work of preparing my taxes would take about the same amount of time either way. About the only carrot they can dangle for me is "get your return a few days earlier" which is nice, but chump change compared to the benefits for them: getting the data of my report in electronic format, making it no doubt tons easier to verify it and use it to update their financials and aggregate data. That's got to save a huge slice of their infrastructure costs once it's in widespread use.

So they should be pushing it, and they are. Every year the tax books extol the virtues of eFiling and push me towards it. And every year I check, and every year it turns out to cost me money to use it, and every year I decide it's not worth it. Even if it only cost a dollar, the time value of money for the extra five days of the refund in my bank account isn't worth anywhere near a dollar of interest. It's a fool's game.

It gets even sillier on the state level for me. I always download the fill-in PDFs from the IRS website and send those in; typing isn't easier or harder but it certainly produces a more easily read document which must be saving the IRS staff a little time -- the printed PDFs have to be far more reliable to OCR than my handwriting. Vermont also offers PDFs, but they're not fill-in PDFs, but that's not the bad part. The bad part is, they say if you use the PDFs instead of the ones in the booklet, there will be a significant delay in your return processing. Why this should be I have no idea, but essentially it forces me to do handwritten forms, which all but guarantees that someone at the Department of Taxes has to squint at my handwriting and key in at least some of the numbers into a computer at some point. They've got two different ways set up to avoid that -- eFiling and PDFs -- and then they've sabotaged both of them with penalties for using them.

For crying out loud, I want to help make your job easier, now stop charging me for the privilege.

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