I do my own taxes. Over the years, I have figured out the increasing number of forms that I have to fill out. They are not that difficult for anyone who can do simple arithmetic and is comfortable with “if …, then …” logical reasoning.
I do not use a professional tax preparer since I figure I will be able to exercise more care since I know the information well and can devote careful attention to it, rather than someone who has to deal with a whole lot of forms and documents. I also do not use the commercial software out of principle. I resent the fact that the government has made a deal with these software companies to not provide their own direct online tax filing system, which would be the logical thing to do. I do not see why I should give my personal data to a private company that lobbies to keep the tax rules complicated so that more people would come to them.
I have had good relations with the IRS in the past, finding them very helpful. On two occasions, they have actually sent me money that I did not ask for because they thought I had not asked for a benefit that they felt I was entitled to. While that was a nice gesture on their part, in the first case, there was a good reason I had not asked for it and in the second case it was due to an error where I had misread the instructions and put a figure in the wrong box, so I sent the money back
Whenever there has been some ambiguity about a form, I would call the IRS toll-free number and get clarification about the issue. All this worked well. But this year, there was an ambiguity about one form and I noticed that their toll-free help line phone number took some time to find, rather than being prominently displayed as in the past. But I found one and called the IRS. I was put through the usual maddening automated phone tree of options but was surprised to be told at the end that the assistance that I was seeking was not available and the recording hung up on me.
So I called back and by punching in zero repeatedly I was able to eventually get a real human being. I told her what form and line number I wanted help with and after a period of silence, she came back on the line and said that she could not help me and that “I had to do my own research” to answer my question. I told her that I had already done a lot of research and that was why I was calling and then she said that I had to “learn how to do research”! When I told her that I had some experience doing research, she then said that I should consult a professional tax preparer. I was infuriated and hung up.
I know what has happened, of course. Congress has been cutting the budget of the IRS. This has resulted this year in them not providing forms and instructions to libraries, forcing everyone either use the online documentation or to order forms online and experience delays. But it looks like they have also cut out the telephone help line. The Republicans in Congress are clearly aiming to make people as angry with the IRS as possible so that this makes their task of getting them to think of taxes as evil easier.
Rather than being so condescending in her attitude towards me which I found infuriating, I don’t know why they don’t give a straightforward and apologetic explanation, saying that due to congressionally mandated budget cuts, they have been forced to cut out some customer services. I would have had no problem with that and would have known where to target my ire.
Given this situation, it does not surprise me that fraud is increasing scammers are taking advantage of the situation and hackers are able to intercept people’s tax information that is going through commercial tax software and claim people’s refunds. If the IRS had its own encrypted servers and direct tax submission system, there would be less opportunity for fraud.