Dave Totten's personal voyage to the land of IT Fluency, and other Digital Governance issues.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Income Taxes

I did my income taxes online last night, with good results. A bit frustrating, though.

The IRS has eleminated Telefile, meaning that those without Internet access are back to pencil-and-paper. Talk about the digital divide! This stuff isn't easy, either, so sitting down at the library to plow through your taxes isn't much of an option. Basically, the only option for those on the wrong side of the broadband gap is to go to the mall and pay somebody to do it.

But not me, baby! I'm IT Fluent! I have broadband and an $1800 computer in my house! Step one is solved.

Over at You'll find a list of companies that offer to electronically file your taxes for you. I only recognized a couple of the names. Who are these people? Why should I trust them to do my taxes? Is the IRS really vouching for their standards?

Well, no. The government makes no promises that these programs will do jack. All they say is that they will accept a return filed by them... and that if you want to file electronically, you are REQUIRED to use them.

To be eligible for a free electronic filing, you have to be lower-middle class or below. Great, so those least-likely to have broadband Internet are required to do their taxes online now.

I went with H&R Block, even though they are in trouble with the law for their weird debit-card return idea (which they push at you online, bigtime, but I said "no".) Actually, the program worked quite well! It found a big credit that I knew about but wasn't sure it would have spotted-- in fact, it was something that I would have missed out on if I'd been doing Telefile!

Still, my preference would be for a unified system coming from the IRS. I mean, they are responsible for the legal code, it would be nice if they could be responsible for the computer code, too. The accounting companies lobby against this idea non-stop, however, so it'll never happen. I mean, I want to trust the government. I don't think I would trust AAATaxcutterOnline! or what-have-you. There's also that liability issue, I suppose. If the IRS were to develop an online system, then they would be liable for it's quality. This way, if there's a big problem, I have to take my beef up with H&R Block, not the government (remember the disclaimer?)

In all, I'm happy with the results, and despite having to give my information to a big corporation, where I'll be sold out to data miners and spammers and put on the H&R Block spam e-mail list forever. I mean, is that such a small price to pay for getting a big-ass refund via direct deposit?



Blogger Cat said...

This is why internet access in the public library is so important! Also why libraries in neighborhoods where people are in lower income brackets should have more computer and more staff than those in swanky neighborhoods!

4:19 AM


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