• Quite (unregistered)

    The United States of America comes across as being like one great big jail, with jailors deliberately sticking their feet out in order to make you trip so they can punish you for it.

    Or perhaps I can go back to A.A. Milne and consider the poem about not walking on the cracks in the pavement, so the bears don't get you.

  • TheCPUWizard (unregistered)

    That team does not happen to be headquartered in Florida does it?????

  • Oliver Jones (google)

    Heh heh. I have it on good authority (a friend who's a hard nosed tax accountant) that the way to cope with revised tax statements coming in after you've sent in your return is...

    1. save 'em.
    2. wait until you get a letter from the IRS (the US federal tax authority) saying "there's a mistake."
    3. write back saying, "You are correct. I made a mistake. Please let me know how much more tax I owe and I'll pay it."
    4. if they write back with a bill, pay it.

    Exception: if the bill is ridiculously high, then you might have to fight it.

    Why does this work? Because the IRS's software methodology makes the tax preparation company mentioned in this article look like they have the good-humored efficiency of Norwegians and the diligence of Germans. Item number 2 in my list above is unlikely to happen. Item number 4 is vanishingly rare.

  • Oliver Jones (google) in reply to Quite

    Hey! Don't make fun of the jailers!

  • Brian (unregistered)

    Stuff like this is one of the reasons the Fair Tax was proposed. Among other benefits, it would put companies like this out of business. Too bad the government's corporate masters will never let it pass. https://fairtax.org

  • Greg (unregistered)

    The company's behaviour on this in not unlike some car companies that calculated what it would cost them to make cars safer vs paying out when they got sued over safety issues.

  • MiserableOldGit (unregistered)

    Welcome to the world of implementing formulas to represent ever changing government policy ... along with the deadlines, there's often little or no thought given to whether it's actually possible to generate the outputs they ask for with the inputs available. And usually at least some of this year's slew of changes will be ambiguous, if not outright contradictory, when thrown in with all the existing law and regulations still in force.

    And, of course, our software updates were supposed to be available (tested, deployed) on the day when everything gets announced (4th April), in spite of the fact we only got provisional figures and guides about 12 working days in advance and all of that was subject to change up to (and indeed after) the aforementioned deadline. Oh, and every year you'd find some bright spark, in the chain of data getting from the actuaries to us, had decided to reorganise something like pay-grades this year without giving us any sort of prior warning. For that reason, any attempt to automate bits of the process usually fell flat on their face.

    I'm not going to say who I was working for, but regardless, giving out the wrong figures was very bad news for lots of people in all sorts of ways.

    Not so much broken by design, as broken before you even start.

  • Naver (unregistered) in reply to Oliver Jones

    As a Norwegian and former Social Security Administration employee, what efficiency are you talking about?

  • Bill (unregistered)
    1. wait until you get a letter from the IRS (the US federal tax authority) saying "there's a mistake."

    The flaw with this step is that there's a chance the change will save you money, so it pays to figure that out before deciding to apply the rest of the plan.

  • Quite (unregistered) in reply to Bill

    But how much money are you likely to save, and is it worth the time it takes you to go through the hassle of all this unbearable bureaucracy?

  • my name is missing (unregistered)

    It's like calculating paying for secure software vs. paying for credit card monitoring if someone hacks your company or database. Screw security! Take a chance! Maybe we win!

  • tax dev (unregistered)

    I work as a developer for a large tax-preparation software company in the US. While we have our own slew of horrors in the sausage-making (some of which I should try writing up at some point), we take pride in the fact that our products are accurate and responsive to state and federal law: sometimes being updated within days of new laws being passed during tax season. Getting updated tax forms or electronic filing specs from states in February for forms that customers wanted to fill in January is par for the course and part of what makes this job interesting.

  • Form1040 (unregistered) in reply to Oliver Jones

    Or, 3. The IRS will likely include details about "the mistake", including how much +/- they think your tax liability should be. Tell the IRS "You may be correct, I'll redo my forms and resubmit." Go back to your tax professional, who hopefully has the patched version of software and have them file an amended return. A reasonable tax pro shouldn't charge you more to fix something that they got wrong do to their busted software.

  • asdf (unregistered)

    Most of the complications have come from companies lobbying for special exceptions. Then corporations turn around and complain after shooting themselves (and everyone nearby) in the tax face.

  • mrfox (unregistered) in reply to Oliver Jones

    I dislike paying taxes as much as the next guy, but in the IRS's defense, they actually did send me the letter saying "there's a mistake"... and refunded me a pretty significant chunk of what I'd paid.

    No longer using the tax preparer that made that mistake... (and no, it wasn't the blocky company from the article).

  • eric bloedow (unregistered)

    i've read horror stories about tax laws that contradict each other, making it totally impossible to follow all of them...and the IRS fining people for that impossibility! ANY other organization in the WORLD would be sued out of existence for "entrapment".

  • Developer Dude (google) in reply to Oliver Jones

    My taxes are pretty simple - the only deductions I have are mortgage interest and property taxes.

    And yet, every year, round about July, I get a check from the feds and a notice from the state to pay more taxes.

    It seems I always make a mistake somewhere, but for the life of me I don't know where - so I have just let them figure it out, assuming they are probably correct.

  • Guest8782 (unregistered)

    "blockhead managers"

    I thiiiiiiink I know what accounting "conglomarate" is being talked about here...

  • Herby (unregistered)

    One of these days, said company with dodgey software will run into an IRS program that looks specifically at the flaw for EVERY RETURN that the company signs off on. Then go after the company for being bad. The IRS is particularly good at "matching" to make sure that everyone who gets money accounts for it somehow.

    Of course, you could get a call from the IRS saying there is a warrant for your arrest and you need to pay taxes with an iTunes gift card, but you can safely ignore these.

  • lazloman (unregistered)

    That's business for you today. Its cheaper to scrww people over than to do things right.

  • Sole Purpose of VIsit (unregistered) in reply to Brian

    Um. No, it isn't.

  • omw (unregistered) in reply to Oliver Jones

    You made me feel proud to be Norwegian today. Thank you good sir!

    In Norway it is against our constitution to make retroactive laws and regulations, so here all tax rules are set more than a year before the forms are due. The exception is rules to the benefit of ruled, and this summer we got a new complex regulation for the current tax year (the bill was passed last December though, but without all the gory details.)

    On the plus side, we mostly only pay taxes to one government level, and our IRS ("Skatteetaten") fills out all the forms for all regular employees automatically, and everything can be reviewed and delivered on line.

  • Olivier (unregistered) in reply to omw

    Pre-filled tax form for regular employees is easy, we even have them in Thailand.

    I believe it gets more complex when you have other revenues than your salary (and maybe interest on your bank account), this that are not automatically informed to IRS. Or when your family situation changes (marriage, divorce, birth...)

  • Worf (unregistered)

    I usually do the forms twice - I do it manually first (they're generally simple enough) and then I enter it into the computer to actually submit the form.

    If there's a discrepancy, I go and see who went wrong where. It's usually me. It's nice to have a check. It's also to ensure I entered my figures right. Garbage in means garbage out. And to err is human, to really screw up requires a computer. Doing it twice means i'm less likely to have made a huge horrible error.

    Plus, doing it yourself educates yourself on your money - perhaps some things you're doing, you shouldn't be doing, and other things you're doing, you're doing wrong. You won't know unless you actually do the numbers yourself and see that.

  • bobcat (unregistered)

    Oh, hey, the spambots got past the captcha. Yay.

    Anyways, I could see the fines beig a LOT higher if the IRS found out that the errors were known about and deliberately ignored. That changes it from 'oops, our bad' to premeditated tax fraud.

  • siciac (unregistered)

    "They figured out that they could do about… 90% of the changes. It's cheaper to just pay the penalties later."

    She quit over that? It's not like there's any great moral compulsion to comply with every last whim of Congress.

  • Flyingfenix (unregistered)

    We get MANY (most?) things wrong here in Brazil, but tax preparation software isn't one. All tax preparation software is provided by the government (free), is quite simple to use, and does everything without having to print anything (but we print the forms anyway). Also, the government is responsible for any "mistakes" caused by software defects, going as far as having extended deadlines numerous times while updated software is published.

    Also, for some taxes, the software will even suggest changes to the tax declaration that will LOWER your tax values.

    Better yet, most of it runs on Linux.

    Keep in mind that tax code here in Brazil is one of the most complex in the world. All of it printed, yields an eight ton book.

    However, the devil is in the details. For the individual, or small companies, anybody able to count to 10 is able to use the software without problems. You just have to have documents proving your income, deductible expenses, etc. Frequently, those documents already come with the exact page and field of the tax form where the value must be inputted.

    For medium/large companies, everything changes. Even if the software is mostly the same, keeping track of all of the documents proving sales, all of the expenses, work related transactions, taxes paid in advance and thousands of other things is extremely complicated, and most medium/large companies will have departments ranging from one person to dozens of people dedicated solely for the tax bureaucracy.

    TL;DR: Free, simple tax software useable by dummies provided by the government.

  • omw (unregistered) in reply to Olivier

    Bank statements, interests on savings and loans, and even profit and loss on all stock trade on stocks listed on the national stock exchange is automatically computed buy the governmemt.

  • Merus (unregistered)

    I think in most countries, the government provides software to automate doing tax; one of the advantages is that the tax agency can go back to the politicians and say 'we cannot implement this in the timeframe you've given us, so we're going to ignore it'. The dream of developers everywhere: having power over your stakeholders.

  • Easy tax form (unregistered) in reply to Olivier

    I believe it gets more complex when you have other revenues than your salary (and maybe interest on your bank account), this that are not automatically informed to IRS.

    Actually everything is reported automatically to the Norwegian "IRS". Information about interest, depts and other revenues generated within Norway are sent in by the banks, companies and other entities. There may be some things you need to report yourself, such as income from foreign sources or changes to your deductions.

    Usually you don't need to fill out anything. I have a regular job, a side business with a small income and it has been at least 10 years since I made any change to my tax form. I don't even have to submit it, as the "IRS" assumes you accept it by default.

  • Scarlet_Manuka (nodebb) in reply to Flyingfenix

    It's similar here in Australia; the ATO provides the software and if there's an error in your tax return due to the software being incorrect, you don't have to pay for that (not that I've heard of this happening).

    Also, a lot of the information can be pre-filled for you (e.g. income from my employer and taxes deducted therefrom, which they report to the ATO separately) or rolled over from year to year (e.g. spouse and child information, health fund membership details) so that the amount of time required to do your taxes is pretty minimal.

    Speaking of which, I must remember to get onto mine. (Fiscal year here starts July 1 and you can file your tax return anywhere between then and Oct 31, though it's best to wait until at least mid-July if you want the pre-populated stuff to be available.)

  • Dr.λ the β-convertor (nodebb)

    Taxes are immoral. Taxes are literally robbery. With the only difference from regular robbery that you know in advance it is coming so you have the chance to pay up before the armed thugs break down you door and threaten to drag you out of your house.

    And the muppet show that they call elections does not give them the right to do this. Gang rape is a democracy. Is gang rape ethical now?

    Besides, since the bankers are the ones paying the government, you cannot actually vote for the leader of the country. You merely vote for who is to be your leaders spokesperson. It is like being forced to choose between going on a diet of McDonalds fries or McDonalds hamburgers, since both options will make you miserable at the hands of the same entity that is profiting from your misery.

    Some say that the police protects us against robbers. But I would rather deal with a few small robbers than with the giant robber army that is the police.

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