Taxes--you just don't understand

The chilling truth about taxes:

We had a good discussion. But two of the most interesting parts of my time at WAMU didn't make it on the air.

One came right after the show. After hearing so many listeners complain about having to pay for electronic filing when that saves the government money--an objection I entirely agree with--I had to inquire further. So I told Williams about my own positive experience with Virginia's free e-filing and asked him if the IRS was thinking about following this example.

He answered affirmatively, saying that the IRS was considering ways to reduce the cost of e-filing and remove other obstacles to it (he suggested, for instance, that as an interim step the service might require professional tax preparers to file electronically). In a follow-up e-mail, he pointed me to this summary of state e-filing initiatives; I was surprised to see how many states had moved to free, direct online filing.

The other was Williams' reaction when I got into my usual rant about how the complexity of the tax code has turned a fundamental rite of citizenship into some sick little game. I could see him nodding vigorously in agreement, and during the next break in the program, he said as much to me directly. A little later, as we were both heading out of WAMU's offices, he mentioned that before he started at the IRS, he'd spent 14 years working on tax policy in Congress, going back to 1986's tax reform--and even with all that experience, he was never quite sure that he paid the right amount in taxes each year.

I spent about half an hour trying to measure my oddly shaped house and home office, and then realized I didn't qualify for a deduction. Then there was the time I spent calculating exactly how much of my home television and internet consumption consists of work. And don't even get me started on allocating bank statement interest income between New York and DC . . .

But it's good to know the professionals are confused too.