The exceedingly grumpy editor's accounting system update
Posted Jan 15, 2009 23:40 UTC (Thu) by giraffedata
Parent article: The exceedingly grumpy editor's accounting system update
Your editor believes that it would be entirely reasonable to require governments to provide free software which interprets its tax codes for ordinary citizens, along with a guarantee that, as long as said citizens fed honest numbers to the system, they would not be subject to penalties if the resulting tax calculation were incorrect.
Bah. The citizen should send all the data to the government and the government should send the citizen a bill. The citizen can appeal if he doesn't think the bill is right, but as long as he pays at least what he was billed (and submitted honest data), he can't be penalized.
In fact, in the case of personal income tax, the US government has been poised to do that for a couple of decades, and I can't understand what's taking so long. In 1985, the head of the US income tax agency testified before Congress that in 90% of all cases, the agency already knows how much tax the taxpayer owes when it gets the filing (because of information filed by third parties). He said he hoped to implement a billing system in the next few years. The taxpayer would get a complete copy of his tax filing, as seen by the government, and he could either send a check or file one of his own instead. I don't know what happened.
As it stands, the government forces millions of people to expend the time, money, and stress of figuring their taxes, then looks over the figures for about a millisecond and says, "that's right." I have personally been highly irritated to have the opposite happen: I get a letter back from the tax collector saying, "Nope. What you really owe is X." They were right, of course. I guess I should be glad they disclosed the number X instead of just telling me the general location of my error and having me try again.
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