Writing about Libya so much can be depressing (although if you haven’t read this yet, you really need to). So here is a bit of humor for a change. In 2.5 years of blooging, this re-posted entry below has proven to be one of my most read links. So on this tax day, when you are suffering from repeated robo-rejections from the hideous, dysfunctional, infuriating IRS e-submission system, I sympathize. The ‘error codes’ absolutely make my blood boil. They’re a perfect instance of eveything we hate in government – haughty, soulless, uninformative, disinterested, time-consuming – it’s like a federal, e-version of going to the DMV. Here is a brief 2011 update (I still couldn’t e-file myself):
a. I think I know how the IRS will fill the massive US budget hole – taxing foreign spouses! Hah! What a great gimmick! Yes, Uncle Sam is so rapacious and desperate for cash now that my wife, with no US address, income, citizenship, property, or assets of any kind, still needs to file a 1040. Can you imagine being a foreigner and reading the 1040, much less the guidebook for it, and understanding your obligations when you sign it? That’s just laughably surreal. Most Americans can’t make heads or tails of it. Good lord….Ridiculous.
b. Despite falling under the foreign earned income tax exclusion and having no US accounts, income, etc., I still couldn’t figure out the form tangle and had to fall back yet again on a tax-preparer, even though I am not supposed to even pay US taxes(!). Such a simple process failure just screams tax reform, which both Obama and Ryan thankfully seem to support. Paying $200 a third party in order to not pay the first party has ‘disintermediation’ wirtten all over it.
——– REPOSTED FROM TAX DAY 2010 —————
Most people loathe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the wrong reason. We all need to pay taxes. Taxes are, as the IRS’ building declares, the price of civilization. And that’s true. If you like roads, bridges, ports, military security…basically any public good you can think of, then we need the IRS.
The real reasons you should resent the IRS are actually reasons to loathe Congress. Recall that Congress makes the tax law. Those reasons are:
1. Philosophical: Democratic theory demands that laws be understandable and hence ‘follow-able’ by the general public. You know the speed limit, because you see the road signs and you passed a driving test that insures you can read the road signs. Even if you break minor laws – jay-walking, e.g. – you still know that you are cheating and that you are culpable. The problem with the IRS/tax code is that it is NOT understandable. In fact the tax code is so indecipherable that a staggering 89% of Americans must hire a third party to do it for them. So the tax code fails a basic democracy test: can the general populace know and follow the law as ‘regular Joe’ citizens? Clearly not.
2. Pragmatic: The IRS is absolutely awful at the implementation of the tax code. The forms are long, abstruse, and unreadable. Look at the length of just the directions book for the basic 1040 form. 175 pages! Wth is gonna read all that lawyer-y, jargon-y c—? Well, no one of course. So 9 out of 10 of us pay a transaction fee to have someone else obey the law on our behalf.
Ah, but you say, ‘Kelly, you don’t live in the US, you have no fancy stock portfolio, and you have a low paying academic job (hah!), so doing your taxes can’t be that hard for you.’ *Sigh* You’d think so, but even expats must get a tax attorney. I don’t know one American in Korea who does his taxes himself. Imagine that: how awful is the tax code when I still can’t do my taxes myself, despite a foreign residence and no US income at all?!
Below is the cut-and-paste of the IRS’ soulless-robotic rejection of my effort at e-filing. Note ‘error codes’ – a nice faceless government term sure to enrage the tea-partiers even more – 0022 and 0016. Hah! How can I provide a US state and zip, when I don’t live in the US! LOL.
Think about that. The most obvious constituency to efile – expatriates – can’t, because the IRS computer program refuses to accept foreign addresses on the 1040. And yes, even my tax attorney in the US couldn’t make it work. She had to email me the return, which I then had to snail-mail back to the IRS in the US. :))
On top of that, I could not use the EZ forms. I had to use the complete ones…
You gotta love the government. If you ran a business this way, you’d have been eliminated long ago.
Dear Free File Taxpayer: #2
The IRS has rejected your federal return. This means that your return has not been filed.
Here’s the reason for the rejection:
Error Code 0010: This is a general reject condition relating to the data that is in the Form and Field indicated.
Error Code 0022: The state abbreviation is invalid. The state abbreviation must meet these conditions to be valid: the state abbreviation must be consistent with the standard state abbreviations issued by the Post Office; and the state abbreviation cannot be blank, it must be entered.
Error Code 0016: The ZIP code is invalid. The ZIP code must meet these conditions to be valid: must be within the valid range for that state; cannot end with ’00’ with the exception of 20500 (the White House ZIP code); must be in this format ‘nnnnn-nnnn’ or ‘nnnnn’; and the ZIP code cannot be blank, it must be entered.
Error Code 0457: On Form 2555, the total of max. housing and foreign earned income exclusions (Line 43) from all Forms 2555 must equal housing/foreign earned income exclusion amount on the Other Income Statement (Line 21) multiplied by negative 1 (x-1).
Error Code 0463: On Form 2555 or 2555EZ, Taxpayer foreign street address and city must be completed. Country Code must have an entry with a country code.
Sign into your Free File return at www.freefilefillableforms.com/FFA/FreeFileForms.htm to fix this problem and e-file again, or print the return to file by mail.
You can get more information about handling rejected returns in the FAQs found at https://www.freefilefillableforms.com/FFA/FAQ.htm)
To track your return status, go to https://www.freefilefillableforms.com/FFA/CheckStatus.htm
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