Tag Archives: taxes
Never thought I’d be happy to do the taxes
The last few years our taxes have been very unpleasant. When Washington state voters approved the “everything-but-marriage” domestic partnership referendum a few years ago, our separate incomes became community property. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act forbade the federal government from recognizing our relationship, except that other parts of the tax code (voted in by the same congress critters who passed DOMA) required that anything which your home state considered community property had to be taxed as jointly owned property.
The upshot was that we had to file extra forms, but none of the forms that existed had places for folks in our situation to list the name or social security number of our partner. The first year that was the case, the IRS didn’t properly inform their own people, so same sex couples in the relevant states who filed early had their returns rejected and received letters threatening fines and penalties.
That got straightened out quickly, but the IRS never put out comprehensive instructions for taxpayers in our situation. Even after three years. Everyone was having to refer to one article from a gay rights lawyer posted on the web that walked you through all the different IRS publications—a few rules from this publication, the form from that, and these instructions from this other one. Yes, even the tax professionals were referring to that site.
It was a mess. And we weren’t even allowed to mail our separate filings in the same envelope.
We once again put off doing our taxes.
I don’t mind paying taxes. Really. Unlike some people, I recognize that we’re generally safe in our homes and can count on our money being useful to purchase goods and services because of government functions ranging from the local police and fire departments all the way out to federal reserve and the armed forces. That’s not the grumble.
For most of my life (with a couple of exceptions), my taxes have been fairly simple. Unfortunately, for the last three years that hasn’t been the case. Because when voters in my state approved “everything but the name marriage” domestic partnerships a few years ago (and full-fledged marriage last year), they granted community property rights to us, but the federal Defense of Marriage Act forbids the IRS from calling it a marriage, we’re required to file as Single, but we’re also required to report each other’s income.
The first year this was true caught everyone by surprise (a lot of IRS employees didn’t understand why these strange returns were coming in, and sent back letters threatening fines for “frivolously false” filings), so none of the usual free online services (nor the paid software) knew how to handle it. It took Michael and I several hours to sort things out. And if some gay rights organizations hadn’t posted instructions and links to the correct obscure IRS documents, it would have taken a lot longer.
Last year, which was the second year this was required for citizens of a bunch of states, the software services (and some of the walk-in-and-pay-us places) still couldn’t handle it. But since we’d done it once before, and had saved copies of everything, we were able to do it ourselves with much less hassle.
This year, the third year (and with even more states qualifying), I had been pleased to read some reviews that indicated at least one of the common software solutions could handle it.
The reviews lie.
Once I did figure out what the misleading instructions actually meant (both the software interface and the instructions extremely poorly designed), the software would literally not let me back to the dialog box where I needed to change the number unless I deleted the entire form and started over.
Fortunately, they have a simple form on their website to request a refund.
If I had just set out to do it ourselves as before, I would have had a much less cranky afternoon.
The really dumb thing is that most of the reason why I would like to use the software is because both of us have atrocious handwriting. With any luck, the Defense of Marriage Act will finally be gone next year, and we’ll be able to just do the simple “Married Filing Jointly” form.
Wouldn’t that be nice?