I am going to ask for forgiveness at the outset. It has been a difficult beginning to the year for me, and I need to get stuff off my chest. This is going to be a long Top Comments entry.
We all know there are many reasons Congress sucks. We also know pretty much anyone and everyone hates Congress. But sometimes we don't realize the depths of the depravity Congress can inflict on us. Follow me below the fold into Congress' 7th circle of suckitude. But first a word from our sponsor.....
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I am a tax accountant. A job that is both utterly thankless and bringer of the greatest joy ever known depending on where and what the last number is on a person's tax return. For a large majority of the clients I have, I am only a messenger. I have no ability to create the egregious tax shelters that the 1% percent use to hide money and skirt the laws. Occasionally I am able to use a vague section of the code relating to one of the more traditional forms most people file with their return. At best, I am saving someone a few hundred dollars. Still those people are very thankful for what I can do. However, I still see people year after year that claim I am the reason their refund decreased or they owe money. No matter how many times I tell people that Congress sets the laws that govern the tax code and that neither I nor the IRS are the reason behind their unhappiness over their refund, they refuse to believe and take out their anger on me. These issues are par for the course. I knew going in that I would be dealing with these issues. What I didn't realize is how much Congress was going to screw me and the system over every chance it got.
As all of you know, tax preparation has become almost completely computerized today. All paid preparers today must file returns electronically unless certain forms are not able to be filed electronically. It is efficient and cuts down on mistakes and refund turn-a-round time. There is, however, one major problem with electronic filing, Congress.
For the uninitiated, the IRS typically sets up its computer systems for the current tax year by mid-December. This is when most forms and publications for the current tax year are finalized and released. The IRS always sets up its system based on what the tax code will be as of December 31 of the tax year that is coming to a close. In most normal years, Congress & the President finish adjusting the tax code by November giving the IRS a few weeks to get everything ready. However, we no longer live in normal times where Congress can actually pass laws in a timely manner, especially big laws like tax code changes. This creates major problems that ripple through the system.
Tax Year 2010 was the first tax year where we felt the effects of a severely broken Congress. As you might remember that was the first year the Bush tax cuts were set to expire. Also, a number of popular deductions that were in existence since before the Bush tax cuts were expiring such as the Tuition & Fees deduction, the Educator Expense deduction and, the very popular in mostly Red States, General Sales Tax deduction not to mention the oft talked about AMT patch (typically a Blue State concern). This was also the year Congress had a fight over extending unemployment benefits (necessary IMO). Due to the incessant squabbling, the tax bill was not passed and signed until 12/17, after the IRS was all set for the next tax season. Luckily though the IRS had a couple of weeks before the new year to make some of the necessary changes to the system and e-filing was only delayed about a week. Thankfully they were able to do the necessary testing also so few forms were delayed and refunds were being funding according to the normal schedule for direct deposits.
With few laws changing on 12/31/2011, there was little for Congress to screw up. Plus given it was not an election year, the squabbling could be finished by the end of November which it was. Tax Year 2011 went off without a hitch and a sigh of relief was released by all.
Unfortunately, this year everything came crumbling down as we entered the 7th circle of hell. With Congress and the President doing their best disaster tango ever, we had to wait until Jan 1, to have the tax code finalized. This meant that there were forms that had already been released that were no longer acceptable to be filed either electronically or on paper. In addition, there were all sort of tax publications that now had incorrect information for filers.
The problems began early with the IRS saying e-filing would be delayed until Jan 22. Not bad. Again about a week late like two years ago. And refunds would likely take an extra week to funded. A nuisance but manageable. However, we would soon find out that was not to be the case.
First came the news that forms were going to be delayed in approval. That meant I could not even start to prepare many of my clients returns since I had to wait for the forms to be released. This pushed many clients who normally come in early into our first extra busy period. If that wasn't bad enough we were then told e-filing would not start until Jan 30. If that wasn't bad enough, NY was behind schedule further and did not start accepting returns until Feb 1. For the first time ever I was filing federal and state returns independently of each other for the same client. This ate up more of the time I desperately needed to prepare returns for my clients who want their refunds ASAP.
Then about a week before e-filing opened up, we got even more bad news. After testing the system, the IRS found that many of the forms were causing problems in their systems. The IRS then started sending out notices to preparers that certain forms were on delay. Some forms were being delayed 1-2 weeks while other forms were delayed over a month. Since this information came out after we started filing forms with the IRS, I had to inform clients that their refunds were going to be further delayed.
For the next month, clients had to decide between three equally annoying choices when preparing their returns. They could have me do their return like always with all forms and just wait until those forms were released for e-filing; they could file their return electronically without the forms that were not ready and amend later or file their return by mail. None of the choices are particularly good and all require additional time which is always at premium during tax season.
Once filing opened, I thought at least things would go smoothly, but boy was I wrong. Due to all the late changes, many states were experiences strange errors on e-filed returns. Everything from dropped forms to bad calculations. At the same time I was preparing returns, I had to handle calls from frustrated and angry clients who had received notices from taxing authorities that their refunds were adjusted wrongly or their returns were rejected. More problems for me to take care of in the little time I had. And to top it all off, the IRS, which is normally a good organization customer service-wise, had an additional problem with the education credit form depending on when it was e-filed. Instead of working with tax prep companies and CPA firms to fix the problem, they decided to tell filers that they needed to supply more information and their refunds were being furthered delayed and that it was the tax preparers' fault.
And that just brings us to today. Who knows what other problems may be lurking around the corner before tax season ends?
So now you have another wonderful reason why Congress sucks. Tax season is stressful for everyone, not just accountants. When Congress injects itself in new and evil ways, they may get blamed on some level, but the people who take the brunt of it are people like me: workers who are just trying to get through a season unscathed. I can only hope next year is better and that I have understanding clients who will forgive the issues and return.
Anyway lets get to something happier and today's Top Comment submissions.
Top Mojo for yesterday, March 13th, first comments and tip jars excluded. Thank you mik for the mojo magic! For those of you interested in How Top Mojo Works, please see his diary FAQing Top Mojo.
1) Insanity. All of it. by DeadHead — 122Top Pictures for yesterday, March 12th. Click any image to be taken to the full comment. Thank you jotter for the image magic!
2) Well, this doesn't surprise me. Govt agencies by YucatanMan — 117
3) post racial society my ass. by mallyroyal — 101
4) If Laura Bush had been on Twitter by Cali Scribe — 95
5) Love the way the DNA evidence by bobdevo — 94
6) OTOH, it is only a Democratic President who by Susan from 29 — 86
7) Note they put down their Wal Mart voters by FishOutofWater — 84
8) It's really simple by LeftHandedMan — 76
9) Don't worry by david mizner — 74
10) If Gov. Corbett loses... by BenderRodriguez — 73
11) so the LAPD will just give them a can of Bondo by annieli — 69
12) Her popularity declines the minute she runs by Mimikatz — 67
13) But I was reassured for months... by Dallasdoc — 67
14) On the possibility that "THE MAN" is tuned in by oldpotsmuggler — 64
15) ^right wing talking points........ by WheninRome — 63
16) even bigger bullshit... by delver rootnose — 62
17) WHOEVER the Democratic nominee is by Pragmatus — 62
18) Quibble if you will by Potus2020 — 61
19) There exists a good solution to SS funding... by TheMeansAreTheEnd — 61
20) L.A.W.S.U.I.T by OregonWetDog — 60
21) Well, at least more folks are finally coming to... by Meteor Blades — 59
22) But It Was Never Industry Doing Basic Research by Gooserock — 58
23) These women can't work without their truck by Horace Boothroyd III — 58
24) on this New Day...I'm cheering on Team 26... by Glen The Plumber — 57
25) whatever Michelle Obama read, by Gentle Giant — 56
26) epic..!!..so much fun...and what... by Glen The Plumber — 56
27) These guys live under the illusion that... by Shockwave — 54
28) FYI- Perry is deceased by otto — 53
29) Democrats should turn this into an instant by estamm — 52
30) I not only read on by Steveningen — 51
31) Wow, by slksfca — 51
32) Last Week by Eddie C — 51
33) If there was any way that Social Security by Susan from 29 — 51