March 20, 2005

On this the anniversary of our most beloved refund...

I would like to take a moment to offer a prayer of thanks to the gods of TurboTax, TaxACT, and all other entities that have made it possible for me to file this, my fifth annual income tax return, without ever having set pencil to paper tax form. Jeez, you guys, I really love you.

The part of me that likes old musty libraries and arcane archives occasionally thinks that it might be fun to someday fill out a paper tax return. Just try it, once, you know? How can I truly appreciate the time and frustration I'm saving with electronic tax returns if I've never used anything else? Then March rolls around and I see just how many worksheets and supplemental forms I'm allowed to skip by answering simple questions in the English language. A friendly-looking screen asks me, "Are you deceased?" I answer no, and suddenly I never even have to know that Form Q5837-e exists. "Are you totally or partially blind? No? Then don't you even worry your little head about Worksheet 57x. We'll take care of it for you." I'm thrilled. Have I ever mentioned how much I like not having to worry about things?

If I were paranoid, if course, I might wonder what else is slipping past my attention. It's entirely plausible that there are other credits, technicalities, things that a careful and determined examination of every form in the world might reveal, of which I'm not aware because I'm not forced to look at those forms. Worksheet 57x might have a subclause in paragraph 5 of the instructions that says that if you sign your name on line 16, the federal government will add $1,000 to your refund to cover any possible cookie expenses you may have incurred during the year, and if you think that you may have omitted this signature in previous years you may elect either to sue the Department of Cookie Disbursements for back cookie payments or to receive a one-time shipment of thirty pounds of your choice of dessert foods if you drop your suit.

It seems unlikely, though, especially since I have yet to be elected Queen of the United States. And since I'm receiving a refund which I'm choosing to interpret as a cookie fund anyway, what the hell do I have to complain about? Nothing. So, on behalf of myself and everyone else of my generation who's got it so damned easy every April that we don't know how easy we've got it... thank you.

Posted by dianna at March 20, 2005 02:00 PM

they don't happen to have a question that asks you if you are a grad student who seems to have gotten a form with fellowship and tuition and student loan amounts all listed together, and are pretty sure they're not supposed to all count toward your taxable income, but don't know what to do about it - do they? i've always done my own pencil-and-paper taxes, but i'm about to suck it up and do it electronically, dammit.

Posted by: katie at March 20, 2005 07:18 PM

"Scholarship and fellowship grants not reported on Form W-2. Also, enter "SCH" and the amount on the dotted line next to line 7. However, if you were a degree candidate, include on line 7 only the amounts you used for expenses other than tuition and course-related expenses. For example, amounts used for room, board, and travel must be reported on line 7."

aka: Ignore what the form says, and put what you actually received. They might report it including tuition that they paid for, but you're only taxable for payments in excess of tuition so it's easier just to check your checkbook and see what you deposited and put it on line 7, less any other fees or book expenses.

Posted by: Thomas at March 21, 2005 10:00 AM

Wow. How do you like that for helpful?

I'm feeling slightly disillusioned today because my state tax return has now been sent in for e-filing twice and rejected both times. I'm being informed that I don't know my own 2003 adjusted gross income, which, while indubitably true, doesn't give me any credit for a) being who I say I am and b) having my 2003 return in front of me and c) really trying quite hard to find the right number in all of this paperwork thank you very much. Sigh.

Posted by: Dianna at March 21, 2005 01:22 PM

s/b line 17 of CA Return, although it could be line 13, which is your fed AGI.

Did you take the CA renters credit? It you made (AGI) less than $29,955 in 2004 then give yourself a $60 credit (for cookies) on line 31 of CA return.

Posted by: Thomas at March 21, 2005 04:25 PM

Oh, I've got the renters credit thing down. I'm stepping right up to claim my $60. But here's my problem: the first time I entered the federal AGI and it said, nope, wrong. So I checked again and realized they're not the same, and promptly resubmitted using my state AGI (line 17). That one was rejected also, so now I'm running out of numbers and I'm really not sure what they could possibly be looking for.

Posted by: Dianna at March 21, 2005 06:01 PM

Oh my god. It worked! It worked! My state return went through this time! I am Dianna Woolsey after all, and not an impostor trying to scam the IRS and Franchise Tax Board into sending Dianna's refund to the wrong person! Hooray!

Posted by: Dianna at March 22, 2005 11:02 AM