Rome, NY Sucks

But At Least We're Not Utica

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Taxes: More Necessary or Evil?

Anyone who files taxes in New York knows that none of the forms are easy, contain dozens of questions and is generally more dreaded than the federal return. New York finds these forms hard to deal with as well. They'd like everyone to file electronically, and if you file once using software, you stopped getting forms years ago. Now, if you use software to file, you are legally required to e-file. I'm still not sure if that also requires spending the extra NY state fees, since there is basically no "free" state filing available.

I always thought that New York would be better off if they provided a CD or other media with tax information and possibly a simple filing program to fill out the forms. It turns out that there may be more sinister forces at work. Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, has been lobbying the government to keep government-created systems of tax filing away from taxpayers. The last system that turned tax filing into an automated process was the now-defunct Telefile.

Telefile let taxpayers eligible for single 1040EZ filing call a number, use their phone to enter W-2 information and file the return in 15-20 minutes (after filling out the applicable worksheets). While using your touch-tone phone to file returns is a little antiquated, the same process could be used on a secure web page. Even if this happened, New York would refuse such a simple system.

New York State is a tax disaster. At least one page of the "simple" form is dedicated to extra taxes for New York City, but appear for everyone in the state. Until this year, filers had to transcribe everything from their W-2 onto a form that looked like a W-2 for no particular reason. The state also requires filling out a box for non-taxed internet purchases, even though separating them can be nearly impossible. I can't even imagine what taxes are like for businesses.

Tax simplification increases compliance. Giving everyone a STAR rebate or energy tax breaks don't make up for high taxes and high energy prices. I'll be doing my taxes on paper this year, and I'm not going to try to keep my handwriting neat.


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