Okay, I just finished doing the taxes for 2005. Woohoo!
But every year, I’m faced with the same dilemma: The IRS’s bizarre position on e-filing taxes. I can see why the IRS would want me to e-file: it saves them big bucks in data entry. But why should I want to e-file? After all, it costs $15 — much more than the cost of paper, ink, and postage for printing and sending via mail. So why should I pay to do them a favor? Here’s what the handy-dandy brochure the IRS sent me says:
Accuracy — e-file greatly reduces the chance of getting a notice from the IRS
I have a couple responses here. First, really? Has anyone verified this? And second, that’s just sad. You mean the IRS can’t get its act together enough to correctly enter taxpayer data? Finally, is this an extortion racket? Is the IRS really that desperate to save data entry dollars that they’ll literally threaten you with an audit if you don’t e-file?
Security – Your privacy and security are guaranteed
Ummm… how, exactly? If identity thieves get a hold of my private financial data and charge up a $10,000 credit card bill, will you cover it? And how is it more private and secure than the US Mail? Is there something Dubya isn’t telling us about his surveillance programs?
Fast Refunds – You receive your refund in half the time, even faster with Direct Deposit
Okay, I’ll remember that next century when I’m actually eligible for a refund. What’s more, a thumbnail calculation suggests that even then, assuming a 6 percent interest rate and a $10 difference between the cost of e-filing and mailing, if I get my refund a month sooner, the refund would have to be over $2000 to be worth it.
Proof of acceptance – You receive an electronic acknowledgement within 48 hours that the IRS has accepted your return for processing
Whoopee. As if they wouldn’t let me know if they didn’t get my return.
So, unless I’m expecting a refund of over $2,000, there’s absolutely no incentive other than my lack of confidence in IRS data entry processes to motivate me to e-file. Here’s a better idea, IRS: how about giving e-filers a $50 tax credit? Surely your data entry on a typical tax form costs more than that. If that’s too rich for you, I’d do it for the $15 I’d have to pay the folks at TurboTax for the “courtesy” of e-filing for me. Until then, you’ll get my return the old fashioned way: via the U.S. post office.