Tax day is fast approaching, and I’ve been working (on and off) on my tax forms. The IRS lets you download just about every form you could need from a forms page – pick the form you want and save the PDF, simple. The forms are not just printable forms, they really are PDF forms, in that you can fill in the forms using Acrobat Reader and save them locally while you work. And then when you are done, print them, sign them, and send them in. The big advantage is that the final printed forms are far more readable than my handwriting, oh, and making edits while you work is a whole lot easier.
But I am filling in the forms and see instructions like “Gross profit. Subtract line 2 from line 1c. ” and “8 Total income (loss). Combine lines 3 through 7. ” and “Cost of goods sold (Schedule A, line 8) ” (that’s right, just copy a number you entered elsewhere on the same form), and I can’t help but think: No! I just typed in the numbers, you calculate them for me! Come on IRS, in 2004 you started distributing fill-in PDF forms, that’s great. Now take the next step, it’s not that complicated, you just add some very simple computation logic when you design your forms, and you’ll have more accurate returns and happier users. For 2008? Please?

7 thoughts

  1. I think it’s not so much an issue of implementing the technology, but responsibility. What if they deploy a pdf with wrong calculations and don’t catch it on time? Can you imagine the uproar? Remember Uncle Ben Parker’s wise words: "With great power comes great responsibility!!!"
    my 2 cents.. 🙂

  2. As I recall, there was a concession wrung out of the IRS that disallowed them from calculating these things online so that the government would not be competing in the same space as TaxAct, TaxCut, TurboTax, et al.

  3. The IRS doing tax preparations??? Thats kind of like having one lawyer for both sides of a case. No checks and balances, they could do what they want and sway things one way or another and no one would know it. I think it’s just lazy and irresponsible to say, "here, just do it for me and I’ll take or give whatever you say". Pretty soon you have this entity that no one knows about, but they take your money automatically without explanation. Sounds kind of like communism.
    But I may be biased because I oppose taxes. The take your money all year, and at the end they tell you to give them more or else they’ll take everything you have and put you in prison. They add a layer of time consuming complexity you must complete within a short time period (tax season) on top of our already busy life in hopes that we are either irresponsible, procrastinative, or just too busy to get to it. Then they move in for the kill. God knows they aren’t intelligent enough to figure out how to take taxes without having to give refunds or demand more. If a business overcharged customers all year and had to give refunds, they’d be out of business or in serious legal trouble. I just don’t get it. I will pay to support troops, police, and fire, but I don’t like doing it this way.
    But I’m ranting politics now and that’s not in the scope of the subject here. Technically you have a good idea, politically it all sucks any ways.

  4. I don’t think it would be "preparing taxes" if the correct values on a PDF did simple addition. That’s just a method for avoiding mathematical calculations.
    I imagine Brian is correct though – it’s amazing what a few political contributions will do to ensure bureaucracy will stay intact!
    Cheers,
    David

  5. Clint,
    If I may b e so bold, do remember that taxes and most method of collection is not determined by the IRS, but rather the congress. And we, as voters, can change governments via our ability to vote.
    I hope you are a voter!

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