Saturday, April 16, 2011

Online tax filing: not as slick as I'd hoped

I've never minded filling out forms. When I was 6 or 7, I'd write my name and address into all the tiny coupons in the back pages of my mother's Good Housekeeping magazines. More recently, I got a kick out of filling out online forms and submitting them electronically rather than mailing off stacks of paper or standing in line to renew automobile license tabs. When I read that one could submit a federal income tax return electronically, I was more than happy to try it, especially because it promised a quick refund.

I should have curbed my enthusiasm.

As always, Peter did the calculations and handed me the draft. I went to the IRS web site and followed their instructions to use "Free Fillable Forms" provided, as I understand it, by a private firm under contract to the IRS. Things started out smoothly enough, but then I found some instructions cumbersome. And confusing. And tedious, like when I had to copy all the information from our W-2 forms. But I kept at it. I printed everything out so Peter could check it for me, and then with great satisfaction I clicked a button and submitted our tax return.


And got a notice saying it was rejected.

The helpful rejection notice said, "Here is the reason." But it didn't deliver. Instead, it listed the 10 or 12 most common reasons that tax returns get rejected. They included common-sense items, like misspelling a name or mis-typing a Social Security number. They also talked about forms and schedules that I hadn't even used. I went back over everything, changed an item on the transmittal cover form, and resubmitted. Rejected again. A third try, a third rejection.

I understand that computers look for exact information in the exact format they are programmed to expect. But instead of providing a generic list of the most frequent errors, the system could just as well tell me that the problem is in line 43, or that I needed to file Schedule B, or that I omitted something from the special submission form. Instead, I printed out the entire return and mailed it to an office where a human being will look at it. I predict that person will find it acceptable.

I have a brother who is volunteering through AARP, helping seniors prepare tax returns. He's heard quite a few people - not all of them elderly or confused - complain about the online system. So I hope the folks who want to eliminate lots of government jobs don't start with the people who process returns at the IRS, because the online system is not ready for prime time.

22 comments:

Abby said...

I had that same problem last year...rejected 3 times. It turned out that the computer program can't recognize jury duty pay because of the way they have you enter it (the numbers never add up correctly or something), so I ended up having to send it by hand anyway. This year, I was nervous, but decided to go for it since at least it does the calculations for you. Fingers crossed and....it got accepted on the first try! Woohoo!

Retired English Teacher said...

Hmmm, that is interesting. We use turbo tax and have had no problems. It sounds like they have some kinks to straighten out for sure.

Paul C said...

In our parts there is a lot of advertising for Turbo Tax, a 'quick and easy' way to file your taxes. I am tempted to try them next year.

Kat said...

I was a tax preparer for years and I kniow all about those rejections. Now a days I just do my own (and of course all the children remember to send their W2's at tax time, lol) I recommend Turbo Tax too. Here are some of the very main reasons for rejections: The name(s) on the 1040 doesn't match (exactly) the name on your SS card. The DOB doesn't match SS records. Or something on the W2's doesn't match what is in their system, like the EIN # of the business. I hope you will try again next year, once you get it it is so much easier and faster. I understand your frustration!!!

Jeanie said...

I would be frustrated to, that is if I was brave enough to do my own taxes. Hopefully with the advice from above you can figure out the reason for the rejection and try again next year.

Linda Myers said...

Turbo Tax for us, too. I buy the software every year. I like how stuff is copied from last year.

Far Side of Fifty said...

We have an accountant..it makes it so much easier for me:)

Shirley H. said...

There are several brands of tax return software on the market and I have tried 2 of them. Both are very good and so time saving. I recommend using softgware for both
Federal and State returns. They do all the figuring and it is like having an interview with a tax consultant. The time an energy saved are worth the cost.

DJan said...

I use the AARP volunteers at our Senior Center who help us file our very simple return in about ten minutes. They are amazing! But I also have heard nothing but good things about Turbo Tax. Maybe it's worth a try?

Grandmother said...

My husband is self- employed so we use an accountant but she files our form electronically.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I had never thought about Turbo Tax because my hubby does the "figuring," but I'm going to look into it for sure. Thanks for the advice!

√ Honest Abe said...

Did I already tell you that Patty used "Tax Cut" now called, "H and R Block" to file our taxes. We don't get anything back because we didn't have to pay anything in. She only filed it to make sure we didn't have to pay anything.

Jeanne said...

I used Turbo Tax. I also got rejected, but it told me why.

For a mere $35.

Per return.

And, it assured me our best bet was married filing jointly, when, in fact, married filing separately netted me an extra grand.

Why does it have to be so complicated?

Barbilou said...

Ours was rejected because our bank changed it's routing number, and we didn't remember to change it on the "saved" info.

#1Nana said...

Did both my state and federal returns yesterday on Turbo Tax. I've used the program for five years. It transfers all the info from the previous year to the new year and you just have to update it. It's well worth the cost. Both my returns were accepted within minutes of submission. IT didn't save me any money on the taxes though. I still had to pay more than had been deducted.

lesinfin said...

That sounds really frustrating! I have not tried turbo tax but I have friends who have and swear by it. I used the H&R Block site this year--they have a free filing for "simple" returns like mine. It was fairly easy but I think there are some restrictions.

Good luck! I hope it all works out!
xoxo

Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs said...

As others have mentioned, Turbo Tax is awesome. Well, as awesome as tax software can be ... especially when one owes. (Yeah, we owed this year. Grrr...) But it's all pretty simple with Turbo Tax; we've used it for, gosh, nearly 10 years, I think.

I'm writing this as the deadline looms in mere hours, so I hope things worked out for you.

Grandma J said...

I file on over the internet too, using the free filing. It's a bit tricky, but I've been lucky so far.

Now, I always get some kind of rejections when I purchase stuff through paypal. Usually, it's my own wrong doing though.

gayle said...

My husband does the taxes with Turbo Tax! It worries me though!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I do Turbo Tax, but don't file electronically. Still print out the paper and mail. I'm so glad it's over for another year.

Deb Shucka said...

Yikes! That's frustrating. My hubby does our taxes, and has filed online for as long as it's been an option. He also uses TurboTax, which might have helped. I'm just grateful I'm not the one dealing with it.

I laughed at your filling out forms as a child. I did that, too, and had forgotten.

Kristy said...

I'm very un-modern in that my husband takes care of "all that." Thank gawd I trust him!

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