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petrini1 [userpic]

A Sigh of Relief...

October 15th, 2008 (01:03 pm)
drained

current mood: drained

I finished my tax returns. Hallelujah!

As always, I'm amazed at how ridiculously complex the tax code is. For instance, you have to go to four different tables to figure out what per diem amount you should use for meals each day during business travel. Even worse is how very badly it's all explained on the forms and the IRS information sheets, which sometimes use different language to describe the same thing. In one place, the term, "net proceeds" is defined as "gross proceeds." Huh? I have a Master's degree in writing, and I find some parts of the instructions to be impenetrable. If I can't figure out what it is they're trying to tell me, what hope does the average, non-college-educated taxpayer have?

And our taxes have gotten more complicated in recent years, with my writing as a business and with the various investment funds our financial advisor has put us into and then taken us out of.

I'd have thought TurboTax would be doing its best to translate it all into normal-people language for me. Sometimes the software helps by cutting through the obtuse wording and just asking a sensible question. But on other sections, TurboTax might even be making it worse by introducing yet another set of terms for things the IRS already describes in too many different ways.

Now I'm alternating between exhausted from the mental effort (and lack of sleep last night) and giddy with relief. Maybe I should just be happy we're getting refunds and not question the rest.

Comments

Posted by: Lawrence M. Schoen (klingonguy)
Posted at: October 16th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)

you have to go to four different tables to figure out what per diem amount you should use for meals each day during business travel.

Well, now you have me curious. Which tables have you been using?

Posted by: petrini1 (petrini1)
Posted at: October 17th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)

You have to decide whether you want to use the "regular" method or the "high-low" method, each of which has its own tables. (Of course they provide no guidance in figuring out which method you should use.) And then for each expenditure you have to go to either the through-Sep. 30 table or the Oct. 1-and-after table, because the numbers change depending on how late in the year it is. But only some cities are on the tables; for other cities you have to use other amounts. All this is explained (badly) in an IRS publication on the IRS website. Clearly they hired tax experts rather than writers to explain this stuff.

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