I mean, I don’t mind paying them (too much), I just hate the absurdly vague and arcane tax system our politicians have built and the #IRS foisted upon us.
Silly me, I thought my 1st year of retirement with no significant income, taxes would be easy. Hell, I’m even eligible to use the IRS free file program. Previous years, I just gave in to Intuit’s extortion and paid out the ass for TurboTax. Figuring I could save the $125 this year, I selected the free version of TurboTax from the IRS site and got to work. To TurboTaxes credit, after importing my 1099-DIV and 1099-INT documents, it told me I wasn’t eligible for their free program. OK, no huge time wasted there. Back to IRS free file, I pick TaxAct, which has a higher AGI allowance. The wheels quickly fell off.
First, TaxAct free doesn’t support importing of TurboTax files. It does support import of a PDF of prior years forms so I start there. As I expected, their OCR was less than stellar. Incorrect SSNs, all kinds of weird entries on schedule C… This was going to be work. Five plus hours later and I’m looking at a surprisingly large refund, even before entering IRA numbers! Woo hoo! Honestly, it looks too good to be true, so I start double-checking TaxAct’s math. Doesn’t take long to find it double credited me for property taxes paid in 2019. Uh oh…
Rapidly losing faith in TaxAct, I pony up the $100 and download TurboTax. Only takes about 30 minutes to import various tax documents and update some numbers from 2018. TurboTax also says I’m getting a refund but it’s less than half what TaxAct said. That property tax double-dip doesn’t nearly cover the difference. Annoyed, I put everything up for the day and commence to Tax drinking.
A few days later, I roll up my sleeves and dive in to see what the heck is the difference between these two tax programs. First, I shuffle some money around accounts to take advantage of 2019 IRA contributions, and then I complete out the interview process in TurboTax. Honestly, it looks right. Itemized deductions came close but standard still won out, just like last year. But maybe I’m TurboTax biased. Back to TaxAct to see what the heck it did…
Did I mention, TaxAct’s website cannot remember your password correctly? No, I’m not entering it wrong. I use a password manager as any sane person should. Every single time I wanted to log into TaxAct, I had to go through their password recovery process to get in. Lovely.
I finish out TaxAct’s interview process, entering in the IRA contributions, and it says only $2K of them are eligible. WTF? Now I know that’s wrong. TacAct has also chosen itemized deductions over standard and its itemized total is some $15K more than what TurboTax came up with. With the same data entered.
I walk through all the TaxAct deductions sections again, assuming I misunderstood a question or fat-fingered an entry. Nope, all good (I did notice where it asked twice for property tax paid in 2019.) Then it dawned on me. We’re on ACA now for healthcare. That means we got a 1095-A form. TurboTax asked for every single number off the 1095-A, month by month. TaxAct only asked for the total of monthly premiums. It never asked for the advanced payment of premium tax credit (ACA allows you to get an advance on your ACA tax credit to pay current year healthcare premiums). So TaxAct was giving me credit for premiums paid but not deducting the roughly $15K advance Uncle Sam gave me. That’s 100% audit city.
I guess the lesson learned here is, you get what you pay for when it comes to doing your taxes. While I guess TaxAct might possibly work and be semi-accurate for some taxpayers, that an IRS endorsed product could be so laughably wrong is frankly, frightening. My taxes aren’t that complicated and probably representative of most retired folk. I have investments. I own property. I pay for my own health insurance through the ACA marketplace. My 2019 taxable income was a whopping $300. That I had to pay more than a third of that to Intuit just to submit some annual paperwork to the IRS is fucking annoying.
The IRS could make all this go away in a heartbeat. They already know everything about us needed to calculate taxes for 99% of us. But then our politicians would miss out on all that sweet, sweet PAC money from the tax preparation industry.
Politicians get rich, we get shafted. It’s the American way.