Tax Day

Here in the US, at least; I don’t know how you crazy people in other countries do it.

The damage this year:

Federal: Got back a whopping refund due to overestimation of what we’d owe this year, and immediately ploughed it back into the IRS, because when you’re self-employed, you have quarterly estimates due on top of anything else you owe. Yes, being self-employed sucks sometimes. But at least it’s coming out of money the IRS already had, rather than from the bank account.

State and local: Owed negligible amounts, paid without complaint.

In all, fairly painless.

You?

108 thoughts on “Tax Day

  1. My wife and I owed on federal, because something got screwed up with witholding.

    State we were exactly spot on.

    Local, I owed six cents and my wife was owed six cents. Which is very weird. We of course don’t have to pay cents and they won’t write a check for six cents, so we were even anyway.

  2. In theory I shouldn’t owe anything, being a full-time student who makes diddly-squat. Sent in the forms with the help of my father and now we see if they do what they did last year and cut me a refund check for five dollars.

  3. Small refunds from state and city, which since I too am self-employed, were applied to my quarterly estimates.

    Large miscalculation on Federal quarterlies last year led to me owing a big, painful, impossible-to-pay-right-now amount of money .

    I’m a librul Democrat, but every quarter when I write my checks, I mutter to myself that we’d have a massive revolution in the US if we eliminated payroll withholding and everyone had to pay quarterly.

    Grrr. Arrgh.

  4. Got a big enough refund that I had to go back and double-check everything to make sure I didn’t screw up. Concluded it is the exorbitant property tax rates here in NJ, plus the fact that we’re on the front end of a 30-year mortgage.

    While I’m not crazy about my zero-interest loan to the Federal treasury, there’s only so far you can adjust your allowances to cut your withholding.

    I’d gladly pay quarterly estimates instead of withholding — with estimated taxes, you can actually calculate how much you’re going to owe and pay it. Withholding forces you through multiple layers of indirection to try to guess at how much to have withheld — and as I said, there’s only so far you can move the levers.

  5. Got a little back from state, owed much more to the Fed, as expected.

    I could pay less taxes if I made less money, but contrary to Republican mythology, that ain’t a likely scenario.

  6. Here in Sweden we have until the 4th of May but for most people it’s a relatively painless procedure that has been greatly simplified over the years. Now it can be done online or even by text message if you don’t want to make any changes to the pre-printed form.

    I made off like a bandit as usual and got back a third (comes out as about 10’000 Skr = ~1’200 USD) of what I paid in taxes since I’m a student who only works 8-10 weeks during the summer (taxes are calculated over a full year by default). If you deliver the tax form electronically you get the refund by midsummer which is really nice since my first pay check won’t arrive until the end of July.

  7. Since I am a first time home buyer, I got a big refund from the fed this year, that I get to spend the next 10 years paying back. I live in one state, and work in another, so the refund from one, paid for the taxes not paid in the other. I think I had to pay $30 that wasn’t covered by the refund from my work state. All in all, not bad.

  8. Federal and state refunds. Skimmed some of the Federal refund back to the IRS just in case something odd happens this year.

    And as usual (for the past 8 years or so) I’m manning the phones on tax day to help others with their returns. But for me, everyday is tax day.

  9. Taxes were uncommonly complex for me this year, since I just became a partner at my law firm and consequently had to start paying estimated taxes for the first time, in addition to my regular 2008 taxes as an employee. Moreover, when one is a partner in a firm that earns income in more than one state, one has to pay income taxes in each of those states: so now I have to pay taxes in states even though I may never set foot in them.

    Here’s a tax issue that needs to get fixed one of these days: payroll taxes (as opposed to income taxes) in the U.S. are regressive. If you’re an employee, you don’t pay social security tax on income over… oh, I forget the number, but it’s around $100,000. That means that people who make more than $100,000 are paying a proportionately _smaller_ share of their income in social security tax. That hardly seems fair.

  10. We got a rather large Fed refund, and we have no state income taxes up here in NH, so all’s well this year.

    I actually got to write off all the cash I spent on VP and its associated expenses, if you can believe that.

  11. Refunds all around — far too big a refund, but I’m unwilling to start dropping deductions on my W4. Or whatever that thing is.
    Working for an accounting firm (not as an accountant), I’m all for more complex and confusing tax legislation.

  12. Got my refunds back mid-February (I have a policy of filing as early as possible when owed money, filing on the 15th when I owe them). Got a nice chunk of money back from the feds, probably because I would rather lend the government money than end up owing money and having to scrounge it from somewhere.

    Which reminds me — I need to go and re-do my W-4 to have them take out that stimulus money. Y’all might want to think about that, too — my paychecks just went up about $45 a month because of some government jiggery-pokery. I want to make sure I don’t have to end up kicking back even half of that at the end of the tax year …

  13. Filed (electronically, ‘natch) at the end of Jan., and recv’d refund quite a while ago. And I live in Texas, so no state income tax to worry with – w00t!

  14. Did my taxes back in February, got back a nice chunk ten days after I filed electronically (woot EFT), and spent it before March had arrived.

  15. I filed mine in January, got a state and federal refund. The federal refund went in part to my new computer, the rest plus state went to pay down debt.

  16. Filed yesterday electronically both Federal and State. Getting a good refund from Federal. Donated the $1.00 state refund to wildlife conservation. Paid local taxes which I file quarterly so it’s just the remaining payment.

  17. Us Canadians had our taxes due in March or something silly like that. I’ve been too damn busy with school to care, so once exams are done in two weeks I’ll do them and get them in. The Government will owe me money because while I was working I put tons of money into RRSPs, so. Yeah. Next year I’ll get back even more ‘cuz I’m a student again! Yay money!

  18. Thinking that Texas sounds better all the time. The Maryland state motto is “If you can dream it, we can tax it”. Had to file estimated taxes for the first time last year, as my wife started as an independent sub-contractor. I agree that we would have more tax revolts if more people had to file the wretched things. With all the new complications, we turned our taxes over to an accountant, so we actually filed early for the first time in many years.

  19. Each year I’m reminded of a story (name & author sadly forgotten) where taxpayers are given the ability to direct their taxes to (& away) from specific gov programs. Unrealistic, to be sure, and the story ended a bit sappy. But it’s an amusing what-if.

  20. Between the Commonwealth and the Fed, I gave them almost ten grand in interest free loans over the last year and was recently paid back. I should adjust my withholding to reflect that my wife is no longer a full time teacher, but this is like a free savings account that I can’t pillage, so I have been reluctant to do so.

  21. Got a nice Federal refund after e-filing that will cover a 5th anniversary trip the wife and I are taking in a couple of weeks. Declined to pay $17.95 to e-file NC taxes to get back $150, which should get here in about 8 weeks (NC is delaying refund payments to help cash flow). Just mailed my 540NR to California for game show winnings that I owed nothing on and will get nothing back from. In other words, it’s Wednesday.

  22. Huge Fed refund of $4000 just in time to help pay for a $5000 house repair. While my karma seems mostly balanced, I’m going to think a few extra harmonious thoughts to see if next year I can get enough for a new computer.

  23. No state tax in WA, Yeay!!! However, owed a ton to the Fed. I just don’t get it. I filled out our W2/W4 forms exactly the way they tell me to and then I owe a ton of money? If I follow their rules, shouldn’t it come out even?

    Anyway, changed form info for next year. Had to borrow from family to cover this year.

    When I told my wife how much we owe, I also said “Welcome to middle class! The most taxed group in the country!”

  24. Filed federal in February for 2008, got a sizable refund, all of which (and then some) went into the first payment of 2009 estimated taxes and the payment for unwithheld city taxes which I just filed and mailed off today.

    (My city has significant income taxes; you get them withheld from wages on each paycheck, but you can defer payment for a number of other income sources till April 15. It was a bit painful to write the check, but nice to hold on to the money until now.)

    Filed state online yesterday, owed $1, and the efile web-form said “don’t bother us with piddling small change”. But still sent in some money to them for 2009 estimated taxes.

  25. You could save a bit on self employment taxes by making Scalzi Enterprises an ‘S’ corporation. The filing costs might wipe out any savings though. If you haven’t already, you should talk to your tax dude/dudette about it.

    My refund will be enough to re-shingle the house. At least I hope it will. Getting estimates in the next couple of weeks.

  26. I missed 3 of the 4 quarterly payments last year through sheer stubborness… The electronic filing system won’t accept my PIN and I won’t mail them a check. So, yeah. Pay 3/4 of your tax bill on one day (actually 1 whole year b/c I’m paying the 1st quarter on time this year) and see if you don’t want to show up at the nearest Congresscritter’s office with a torch and pitchfork.

  27. Decent refund this time ’round. Partly thanks to losses on stocks/bonds. *sigh* Not quite enough to make up for said losses, but I didn’t expect that joy.

    Not yet earning money so not yet needing quarterly statements. *sigh* (Insert/ignore whine about agents and lack thereof, here.)

  28. Federal was good to me this year. Hooray for the new student loan interest deductability!! (Boo for student loan interest accrual!!)

  29. I filed electronically, very late (for me)–within the past week! ;-( Stupid Virginia unclaimed property that they don’t keep decent records on; I finally gave up and just put $0 for the cost basis since supposedly the IRS doesn’t mind if you underestimate stock basis and pay too much tax on it. (The amount was very small anyway.)

    Jamie @17: An interest-free savings account. ;-)

    Reading this thread reminds me again that I should reduce my withholding. Homeowning (at least, the first few years) gives me a large refund!

    U.S. residents: the IRS has a nifty withholding calculator. I wonder why the withholding tables just aren’t more accurate. (shrug) Anyway, it says I can add 6 allowances, but I’ll probably add 3 or 4, to be on the safe side.

  30. @ Another Damned Medievalist: The story I’m thinking of was definitely a short story. I want to say it was a Joe Haldeman story, or perhaps in the anti-war collection he edited, but my books are at home and I’m not …

  31. This is actually the first time I’ve ever made enough money to get any kind of refund. I have big exciting plans for the money, too – there will be enough for one month’s bills plus almost enough for an unpaid medical bill (god, I miss having health insurance).

  32. Did them and sent them yesterday. All my money’s made in Canada but I gotta check in with mon pays de naissance every April 15, so I just sent them a couple of EZ forms regarding my foreign income exclusion, etc. This year was the first time I’d ever used that form, actually, despite having filled out American tax forms every year I’ve lived here. This is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to Wolfram Alpha. When I ask it “I’m a nominal American with status in another country and it’s April 14 OMG wut do I do?!!1!” it might actually have an answer.

    Unlike Google. Which just points me at skeezy tax advice sites plastered in more ads than the corner bus shelter.

  33. My wife did the details a few months ago, but as I remember we got money back across the board, a chunk of which is going into replacing the front window, which was over 100 years old, most likely, when one of the neighborhood kids broke it with a battery.

    Yeah, we’re high-tech, we brake windows with batteries instead of rocks.

    I’m told the new window is insured for life, and will jealously guard the heat in my house to prevent it from escaping. Plus, it’ll be openable.

  34. Another TX guy here. I guesstimated my withholdings pretty well, and was due to receive $91 back, but that was before I figured in my IRA contribution. After that, I’m getting $1,091 back, which I plan on spending on travel (I have rollover vacation days from last year I need to use up, too, so I’m gonna visit an old friend in NYNY).

  35. I had to pay about $1,300 to the Infernal Revenue Service. First time I had to pay in like 18 years. Damn it.

  36. I procrastinated so successfully that I managed to lose my wife’s W-2 income reports.

    So, automatic extension filed for. And replacement paperwork requested from the employer. We’ll be able to complete the filing (electronically) next week.

    And my wife has explicit instructions and permission to kill me if I ever let this go past March 1 ever again. (Maybe we can borrow some of those ways Scalzi won’t be killed…)

  37. I’m also self-employed, and I made more money than expected last year. I wrote a very big check. My CPA, who is also my mother, kept repeating, “Just remember, this means you’re doing well.”

  38. First year as a self-employed consultant. Owed Federal taxes big time, owed state (Illinois) for both personal and for business.

    Joined a payroll service this year to cut down on what I’ll owe next year by deducting from monthly “paychecks” but still paid large-ish quarterly estimates since the little consulting business seems to be flourishing and one client already extended me through the end of the year.

    All in all, no complaints, really…..

  39. Finally got things the way I wanted after we had the keed and owed about $620 federal, with about $550 back from the state. Need to change the W4 again since we’ll be having another little exemption running around starting in June.

  40. I filed a couple weeks ago, and am awaiting my refunds. I’m getting a larger-than-usual refund from both state and feds because I was hit by AMT last time. So that’s like two no-interest loans to the government simultaneously!

    There’s a small speech Sam gives in an early The West Wing episode, about taxes. I always think about that around this time of year.

    For my taxes, I get to live in a very nice neighbourhood, with low crime rates, and with police who show up within 6 minutes of me making a 911 call. (Seven cars, total, within 10 minutes.) The children around here are reasonably well-educated, if less well so than I was when I was there age, but what can you expect from this lazy generation who take it all for granted and have it much easier than their parents. When I drive to work, the roads will be smooth, with traffic lights doing a good job of coordinating vehicles in all directions.

    I could talk about the things that I hate about the governments that use my money, but everyone else is doing that. Today, I’m going to try to focus on the benefits I get. And I do get a lot, and at a fairly reasonable price, really.

  41. Kind of painful.
    Financial mumbo-jumbo witch-doctor told me to diversify my assets, I did so.

    Which turned out to be a good move when my previous primary holding lost about 1/3 of its value, but sort makes me wince when I’m here, 11 months later, paying the capital gains on it.

    On the upside, I don’t actually have to pay income tax on my wages, because they were earned in Japan, in Japanese money, from a Japanese company.
    (I just have to report the income, and let the income push up my marginal tax-rate if there was other income). However, it’s not like my Japanese employer was withholding money from my wages, so I didn’t exactly have a refund.

    Finally, I don’t really know how much money my prefecture and city of residence will want from me, but I’m estimating around $1,500, which isn’t as much as California would have wanted, but it’s a heck of a lot more than I have sitting in my bank account.

  42. Due to a with-holding error, we owed an insane amount of money (not quite 5 figures but well on the way) which, fortunately, I had in a cash savings account. Otherwise it could have been rather tricky.

    I do find the system here to be a nightmare to work with compared to the one back in the UK. I might have paid a lot more tax there, but the one thing I could be certain of was, the amount your employer takes off your salary is correct.

    Of course you can have problems if you have other incomes but they’re your problem. If you’re a wage slave, your employer makes damn sure your personal work based tax is right.

  43. I should be getting a decent sized check back from the Feds. 3 kids times $1000 Child take cedit (Thanks GWB) adds up.

    The state I would have owed, except I wrote a goodly sized check to Arizona School Trust Choice in December, and we get a dollar for dollar credit for donations to a charitable tuition organisation in this state. (and I’d much rather see the money used to provide scholarships to get kids out of the Government Schools than let the legeslature spend it)

  44. $202 back from the federal government, but I owed the State of Minnesota $320. Not too bad really. I’ll simply increase the amount of estimated tax I pay the state.

  45. Canadian taxes are no less onerous then the more southerly variety but this year worked out well, largely due to some accidental non-planning from last year that left me with some fairly substantial deductions. Just got a cheque from Revenue Canada for nearly 6 grand which makes me very happy. Mind you it’s going straight into my retirement fund so I can claim a tax deduction on my tax rebate…

  46. Nice return from both feds and Wisconsin – suspiciously so, in fact. There are advantages to losing a full-time teaching job and spending half the year on various ad-hoccery. Not many, but some. As for the amounts, I’m trusting the software to do the proper math and at least this year I didn’t forget to include the money withheld for child-care expenses, so for the first time in a couple of years I don’t expect a $1100 bill this summer.

    The IRS was very polite and helpful in resolving those bills, I must say, but I wish they would correct those mistakes in time for me not to make the same mistakes on the next year’s return.

    I always over-estimate my withholdings. I know it’s an interest-free loan to the government, but I count it as a fee I pay them to provide me with the fiscal discipline I know very well I sorely lack. It seems to work for both of us.

  47. Filed back in Feb or so and got $800 back, most of which went toward my final tuition instalment before graduation in June. I like to file as early as possible… but that might change once I start making enough income to actually pay (though I’ve got a nice chunk of federal and provincial tuition tax credits rolling forward, so it may be a while yet).

    Every year I am profoundly thankful that Canadian taxes are so easy to file. I used software for mine and was finished in about ten minutes; I’ll be doing my boyfriend’s by hand this weekend and estimate that it’ll take about 30 min to an hour.

  48. Well, compared to 2 years ago when we bought a house, sold a lot of stock, and sold a house, taxes were easy this year.

    I filed Federal taxes in early February as we were also getting a big refund. We still don’t save money as well as we’d like, so we tend to over-withhold. Also, I’d pre-paid some estimated taxes last year, expecting to have more self-employment income this year. I wound up with very little self-employment income. But, the “instant savings” meant we had enough money for Boskone, and think we’ll probably be able to go to Australia next year even if I remain underemployed (assuming Jim remains employed).

    We owed a little to the state and to our locality, so we filed those on Monday.

    Today, I paid 1st quarter local taxes. Depressingly, Jim paid more in local quarterly taxes…than I’d made all quarter long… But, due to some recent gigs, I’ve already made more money this quarter than last quarter.

  49. Wrote the second largest tax check of my life today (well it was electroniclly taken from my account), I got hit with AMT. How do wages get taxed as AMT? My job went and the bribe to not sue for discrimination was significant but taxed as wages. My 401K was closed to contributions the day I was given notice, nice people.

    Normally I pay the Feds and try to aim about 10% below the point I get stuck with interest/penalties. After all it is a free loan.

    Formed an LLC and haven’t punched the figures into the software to see what that does to taxes with my projected income (of which I have none yet, but may in July).

  50. Did my federal taxes a couple of weeks ago, got a big refund, and just got around to filling out the DC forms last night and making a copy for my files a couple of minutes ago. Still need to do my Use Tax return. (I’m persnickety enough to file it, but not persnickety enough to keep good records, so I usually just pull a number out of the air for that one.)

  51. Unexpected income at the end of 2008 led to us sending big checks all around – federal, state and local. As carriev said, though – it was a reminder that, however much went out, that meant we were doing well.

  52. We have to pay, but this was expected and the money is already set aside. No pain.

    Are you incorporated, John? Just had the incorporation talk with my accountant.

  53. Due to complicated working relations (I live and work in one state, my wife lives apart from me for this year and nominally works in another state, and maintains two houses and offices) we continue to use our friendly neighbourhood accountant because frankly paying $100 for doing all this is way worth it.

    On my professional side as a librarian, I am handing out a lot of extension forms and like every year, I print off forms for free during tax week. 15 cents a page the rest of the year, but hey, I like being liked when somebody’s stressed, right?

  54. It occurs to me that one of the reasons the well to do/rich and small businesses complain about high tax rates are the quarterly payments. When you pay quarterly you write out two checks with lots of zeros on them, four times a year; this has a visceral impact. Those who have income withheld do see a number on the bottom of their return, but the one they really pay attention to is the amount due/refunded. Also, those who pay quarterly are often in a higher income bracket (not always but often) and thus pay a higher percentage of income, lose deductions because they hit certain income thresholds and enjoy the mealy mouth feel of the ever popular AMT.

    I fire up Quicken, multiply my income YTD by 36% subtract what I have already paid them in the current year and send IRS a check, rinse and lather again at 10% for the state of CA. Factor in ~1-2% of income for property tax and I’m on the verge of %50 tax rate. I am extremely fortunate that what is left is a hefty sum on which to support my family, which is also high enough that, after deductions, the total tax is about the same (except in unusual years with really high expenses).

    What has been chapping my hide is that many in the center/left of center (I am progressive/liberal myself) believe that the well to do/rich (I consider myself well to do) are getting away with something and not paying their fair share. Unless you are uber rich and have had accountants and expensive lawyers structuring your life for years you are paying almost 50% of your income in taxes, period. Unless you are engaged in illegal tax dodges (which is another story entirely) there is no way to get out of paying these taxes; you pay sooner or later.

    I believe in paying my taxes, it is my duty as a citizen and a part of our social contract. What I am I little sick of is the perception that that we don’t pay our fair share. My family educated themselves, worked hard and came up with commercially innovative solutions to real problems which have provided us a substantial income. Most of these involved substantial risk and time; not all were successful, I spent 3.5 years (full time, no compensation, modest lifestyle funded by savings) working on a product that, unfortunately, was released on September 12, 2001. I am now in an audit for writing off the legitimate losses on that project; though it’s the 3.5 years that hurt the most and cannot be compensated for.

    Raising and lowering tax rates is the legitimate business of government. I don’t have a big problem with my taxes going up somewhat, I believe it is my duty to help structure the society to help those that through less fortunate than myself. Being poor sucks, and to form a more perfect union we must strive toward an equitable solution that raises everyone up to the next notch (if not beyond). What irritates me is the entitlement attitude* that brands me the bad guy because I don’t want to pay my share; I do.

    @9 The reason for the income contribution limit on social security is that there is a limit on the benefit. I don’t believe social security withholding is technically a tax; it is a government mandated retirement program. With income taxes one can make the argument that your ability to make large amounts of money are somewhat dependent upon the infrastructure provided the society by government. It’s a little harder to say “oh mister billionaire you need to contribute $20 million to receive $100,000 in retirement benefits”.

    *not a lot of that here at the Whatever

  55. The wife and I are getting a big chunk back this year, due to her being unemployed for 6 months and moving across country so I could be employed at a better place, for more pay. Win!

    It’s all going into savings. Because we are wild and crazy.

  56. Big federal return, due to additional child and not taking all our deductions. No state income tax where I live.

    Re: estimated tax. Hey, if you’re paying at least you’re earning. Didn’t like hearing it when I was self employed, but there it is.

  57. Bearpaw @ 20: You are probably thinking of “We, The People” by Jack C. Haldeman II (Joe Haldeman’s brother). Originally published in Analog, September 1983. Mr. Haldeman has kindly made the full text of the story available on his website:

    http://www.sff.net/people/Jack.Haldeman/people.htm

    Like Chang who does not have a qualifier, I am filing for an extension. I’m still waiting on some paperwork. I’ve made sure to be over withheld for the Feds and both states because I foresaw this situation. Yeah that means three interest free loans, but I don’t have to worry about underwitholding penalties or the nasty forms you need to fill out for that.

  58. Because I’m self-employed, I paid taxes quarterly last year based on my income the year before. But last year sucked the big one in terms of income. So my overpayment paired with my husband’s income and withholding means that we get a nice big refund from fed and a refund from state. For city, I sent enough in to pair with the refund we would’ve gotten to cover this year’s taxes. My accountant makes me very, very happy. OH, and like Marko I got to write off a nice big chunk of last year’s VP expenses as well. (Here’s hoping I get to do the same next year if I get off the Clarion waitlist! whee!)

  59. Got a moderate refund (for my income) back from the Feds, and Oregon proceeded to take it all for themselves. Apparently I fell into the second-lowest tax bracket this year so my taxes went up from an already large amount to a much larger amount. Add in that Oregon’s tax forms are completely incomprehensible and they don’t provide E-filing, and i had a pretty miserable day when I learned that.

    And then California (the jerks) had to add insult to the injury by taxing my income made in Oregon (which I thought was illegal), and required me to send them a check for $2.00.

    This is the first time I’ve owed money. I’m not sure I like it.

  60. Hilary, you don’t need to be über-rich or engage in fancy tax dodges to pay an unfairly low rate, you just need to get the bulk of your income in the form of capital gains or dividends.

  61. We live in California. We happily paid out just under $6,000. In addition to the withholding. Total was something like $10,000.

    Hee, hee. I keep giggling here at work. Everybody complains about paying taxes, but… we work for the state. No payee taxes, no money to payee your check!

    Silly people.

  62. Typical tax year for me. File early with the feds because of a decent refund. (Thanks, mortgage company!) File late with the state of California because I always manage to owe.

    It’s irritating…doing the standard withholding, I am always in danger of underpayment penalties from the state while giving the Feds far too much.

    I don’t even want to think about what it’s going to be in this state in the next few years when the Rube Goldberg budget finally collapses.

  63. Fun year: bought house, moved, sold house, new child, changed state, income during non-resident periods…

    …should get a lot simpler next year. But I think doing tax calculations is fun. I didn’t claim to be normal.

    [Painful to see just how high the taxes are here in NY; first time that the total tax burden has in fact seemed too high for the benefits received.]

    [As mentioned above, the UK PAYE system seems so sensible that I don't know why it's not done here.]

    Oh – and as usual, we get money back from the fed and one state but owe to another. Nothing earth-shattering; I pretend to be single and childless to make the tax math come out about right.

  64. Pattern of the last six years hold true:

    A couple-three thousand back from the Feds.

    About half of of that sent to Oregon to cover under-withholding.

    I forgot, or didn’t think I needed, to supplement my Oregon income tax payments with quarterly checks. So I owe them not only the amount due, but a little extra penalty.

    Only hang-up this year was E*Trade not getting me a corrected 1099-DIV until April 3rd. A foreign tax thing.

  65. S’s company somehow got him listed as “Single” halfway through last year. The difference in withholding was substantial. We filed our taxes as soon as we got solid numbers (generally from the internet sites) to fill in the blanks on the tax forms. I think we got our refund on January 25. Hey, it answered the question of how we were going to pay for the kids’ tuition and summer camp, and we didn’t lose it in the crash last year, because it was safe in the zero-interest savings account, er, IRS treasury.

  66. Sent the spouse to H&R Block to wave stacks of paperwork at them, and then wrote a check for the number. (Between his contracting, my part time job, my royalties, and his smattering of stocks, there was no way in hell we were doing the numbers ourselves.) The total turned out to be somewhere between two thirds and a half of what we’d socked away to pay, which was both a pleasant surprise and worrying. We’re fairly well off, and it surprises me that we’re paying so little in taxes. Surely there are schools and roads and educational grants out there who could use some more money.

    Being the bleeding heart liberal type, I’ll probably end up tossing some money at charity to make up for the guilt. Meanwhile, I’m just happy that we got that all handled (along with some Roth IRA setups) well before the due date. I hate deadlines.

  67. @64: in response to me, you said:
    The reason for the income contribution limit on social security is that there is a limit on the benefit. I don’t believe social security withholding is technically a tax; it is a government mandated retirement program. With income taxes one can make the argument that your ability to make large amounts of money are somewhat dependent upon the infrastructure provided the society by government. It’s a little harder to say “oh mister billionaire you need to contribute $20 million to receive $100,000 in retirement benefits”.

    Completely correct. However, if I ran the zoo, one of the things that I would change is the fiction that social security is a government mandated retirement program. It’s really not; it’s more like a welfare benefit.

    There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the so-called social security trust fund being in danger of going broke. As you’re aware, Hilary (but lots of people aren’t aware), there’s no such thing as the social security trust fund. The money that comes out of your payroll goes into the regular ol’ U.S. Treasury, just like income tax, and the money gets paid out of government funds.

    Reasonable people can differ about whether there ought to be a social security program at all, and if so, whether the amount that a given person gets out ought to have any relation to the amount that they put in. My own poorly-thought-through view is that wealthier people are in a better position to make their own informed arrangements to take care of their retirement, so I have no problem with capping their benefit payments. But it doesn’t follow that there should be a cap on what they put _in_.

  68. @71 Steven – I know the dividend rate is 15% assume cap gains is similar, but I always assumed AMT kicks in on those, given that AMT was targeted at tax avoidance (I could be wrong). The majority of my nut is from passive income (which won’t last for ever), and I’m not even allowed to fund IRAs or 401ks which I think is somewhat unfair.

    Recently I heard, that due to a legislative glitch, there will be no inheritance taxes in 2011. I suspect rich grannies everywhere will be sniffing their tea a little more carefully that year.

    I’ll stop now whining too much in this time and place would be unseemly. And sincere best of luck to those having a hard time of it.

  69. Paid significant amounts to the state, paid sizable amounts to federal. Will get back 75% that we paid because the federal gov’t pays us for sompin that they promise to take the right amount of taxes out of but never do the first time around. How about that for a byzantine system:

    1. You pay me, taking out part of it for ‘tax’ and promise me that will be the right amount for taxes (you know because you are the tax collector). You know that your little brother is going to tax me but are too busy to figure out how much his taxes will be on that money.

    2. We find out you were wrong about taxes, so I pay you the rest of the ‘tax’ (+ pay your little brother).

    3. I prove to you that you were wrong and you pay me back.

    That is a good system! Efficient!

  70. Tiny refunds (<$20) from both the feds and the state, and large quarterly payments for this year going out, yippee. But saving for the quarterly payments is relatively automated now, so it wasn’t a huge deal.

    Using tax software, even the online “free file” provided by companies like TaxACT and H&R Block, makes life a hell of a lot easier. Much better than when I did the taxes on paper: refer to page 22, which references page 77 and fill out this other form to go with it…

  71. Thanks to being poor and enormous medical bills related to pregnancy and after-pregnancy critical care, I got a haaaa-YUGE refund this year.

    Repairs to the house! Repairs to the car! Paying down bills, and paying off others! YAY!

  72. Don’t have state tax (Yay WA!) Got some good money back from the Feds, still haven’t put it into a savings account, but it’s on my list, I promise!

    I don’t begrudge any of the withholdings on my paycheck (tax, SS, health insurance, bus pass, gym membership) except the “optional” deduction that I can’t avoid. Yup, union dues. I’ll eliminate any adjectives for them, but I would feel much better if I paid more for my health insurance and less for “my” union.

    I guess I could change my withholdings, but I like getting all my money back at once. Makes it seem like a gift.

  73. Hilary@80: AMT was in fact initially targeted at tax avoidance. The problem is that it doesn’t automatically adjust for inflation.

    AMT works by having a separate set of tax rules, at a lower tax rate (but it makes up for it by having far fewer deductions). You are supposed to calculate your taxes both ways, and then pay whichever is higher.

    There are a lot of specific actions which make it far more likely to trigger AMT — exercising stock options, but then holding onto the shares changes your tax situation enough — but the fact is, you will be hit by it from plain income if it’s high enough, and you have fairly standard deductions. (E.g., state taxes, property taxes, mortgage insurance.)

    Tax preparation applications know all this, and deal with it appropriately. So do accountants :).

  74. Got enough back from the Feds to cover what we owed the State (I somehow can’t get our State withholdings right, I think maybe because of the investment income and the poker income? Not sure), plus a few hundred extra to throw at medical bills. So it worked out ok.

    Of course, we did our taxes two months ago :P

  75. 2009 is my first year as a freelancer, and therefore my first year as a quarterly filer. 2008′s withholding for my W2/regular paycheck job was too low, so that was one check to the Feds. The other, for Q1 of ’09, I based off last year’s income. My predictive powers regarding this or any year’s eventual income are at their dimmest, what with my small client base thus far and the ongoing process of figuring out What To Do With My Life. So this may result in a large refund in 2010 for ’09, but by next year I anticipate being more accurate with my quarterly guesses. Fortunately, dental COBRA will cover repairs to my ground-down teeth over the interest-free loan to Uncle Sam.

    (I also sent New Jersey my first ’09 quarterly check, though at least I’ll get a refund on my 2008 state tax. Also, since I mentioned COBRA; Thank you, Obama stimulus package, for the 65% COBRA subsidy for eligible laid-off workers!)

    It’s my understanding that the real fun comes with next year’s 1040, when all the expense/equipment receipts and healthcare payment records and other data I’ve been recording so diligently become the material components in the summon overpayment spell I or my accountant will cast.

  76. My corporate return showed a negligible loss. (Working hard to repeat that in 2009. Need to get creative with the tax planner.)

    My Federal return created a windfall refund (even though AMT kicked-in) because I worked two W-2 jobs during the year and overpaid Social Security taxes as a result.

    One of my W-2 jobs was “management consultant” which required my to file state tax returns in every state in which I earned revenue. Why this should be the case, I have no earthly idea. I file too many state returns to e-file or even to use the web-based TurboTax, which has a limit of three state returns. I have to pay for each state’s TurboTax software. (Whine, whine….) Anyway, I’m getting refunds from the each of the states (CA, CT, KS, MO, and UT) ranging from almost nothing to something. The total of the refunds (excepting that of my state of residence) essentially pays for the software and the postage to mail the hard copy returns.

    Last year (2007 tax year), CT owed me $1.00. I made ‘em send me a manual refund check….

  77. I don’t owe anything, but I have to send the paper stating that I don’t owe anything all the way across the Pacific Ocean, which will cost a few bucks. Inconvenience!

  78. Question to Scalzi and others– what did you get for your tax money that you wouldn’t have gotten by paying, say, half as much at the federal level? Not nothing, but if the federal government got only half of what it asked for and had to cut the weakest programs…

  79. Can someone else who is self-employed tell me:

    am I crazy, or is the estimated taxes workshop terribly confusing? Maybe it is just because I’ve never done my own taxes before, and I’m only self-employed for a couple more months…but I had a terrible time with that worksheet. I own no property and have no income besides self-employment income, and my income this year is completely different from last year…

    I ended up just literally estimating based on what I’ve made so far this year and mailing in a nice round check with the voucher. =/

  80. Feds: owed ‘em $30-odd. State: Sending me back $20-odd. So it’s almost a wash, or near enough as makes no never-mind.

    Last year was painful, because I was divorced in August 2007, but I’d been withheld at “married” rates for 2/3 of the year. I suppose I should be thankful for the “stimulus check” (that I never saw because the IRS applied it to my balance due), or I’d be in even worse trouble than I already was.

    Hoping to be married again soon enough, which will mean a nice little financial boost come next tax time.

  81. Gee, my taxes seem mild to all of you guys. I filed electroiically as sson as the California budget crisis was over, and due to my withholding and being laid off last August, I got large refunds from the feds and the state. Sadly, all that meant was I had a little more room until fiscal meltdown since I am still unemployed. Sigh

  82. Refund to the tune of two months pay!

    I really want to just order everything on my Amazon list.

    Unfortunately it will almost all go to a fancy medical device to help keep the hubby alive. Damn cyborgs, so expensive to maintain…

  83. “What did you get for your tax money that you wouldn’t have gotten by paying, say, half as much at the federal level? Not nothing, but if the federal government got only half of what it asked for and had to cut the weakest programs…”

    Well over half of all federal spending goes to three things: the military; retiree benefits (Social Security, Medicare, and veteran’s and federal employee retirement programs); and interest on the debt. As a non-retired civilian worker in the private sector, I don’t “get” anything directly from this right now, except in the form of assurances: assurances that I’m kept safe from attack; that I will get a turn to enjoy the same benefits my parents are getting and that I’m paying for now; and that my country won’t default on its loan obligations and send our economy into chaos that would make the present crisis look positively mild in comparison.

    So you *can’t* cut half of federal tax revenues without either running up even bigger deficits (which is just kicking the problem down the road a ways), or significantly cutting back one or more of these three “core” spending priorities. Of the three, I think the one that’s most justifiably cut significantly is our military expenditure, but I haven’t heard much talk of that from most of the “tea party” promoters.

  84. So. It’s times like this when I think that we’re in trouble.

    _If_ I had moved money into IRAs for myself and my wife, I could have gotten our total federal tax bill under $600. That’s for a gross income of something like $75k.

    It’s a combination of big mortgage and kids mostly, with a side of capital loss and nothing else exotic. But still, think of that. An income tax of less than 1% is possible.

    As it is, I’d rather have that $10k in something I can get to given the global economic cluster****, so the actual tax number was more like $2k total tax, and a slight refund.

  85. I owed unfortunately. My accountant is finding me tax shelters for the first time. Curious, did anyone who received money back give it away to charity or send it back to the gov as a gift? Can I have it?

  86. I had to rummage through a year and a half’s worth of bills and solve a number puzzle (see also “subset sum problem”) in order to figure out how to report my Form 1098-T. But it got me $51 more than if I’d just ignored the whole thing, so that’s good. (Federally. Massachusetts only cares about undergraduates.)

  87. Not too bad. Smaller refund from the feds than usual, but only because we’re getting better at exemptions. Owed a bit to the state. Getting married and having a baby does wonders for the taxes.

  88. got some money back, plowed it back into next year’s quarterly payments. put money into SEP, filed on time without needing an extension.

    Starting to get the hang of it.

  89. Got back a nice federal refund since they let you deduct sales tax and we did a big remodel last year. I will be putting my refund back into the economy. No state income tax in WA.

  90. Refunds from both since most of the taxes I paid were in the heady days of the first half of the year when I had a job and were based on the assumption that I would have a job for the second half of the year, which I didn’t.

    paying my own health insurance and other medical costs all year, plus owning my own house and paying mortgage insurance, etc, also helped. Assuming taxslayer got everything right (*knock on wood*).

    So now I can give the firefighters association that donation they called me about last night…

  91. Filed an extension: tax=0, refund everything.

    In the fifty some odd years I’ve been filing, I think this is the first time my tax liability has been zero. Contributing factors were losses in the stock market and a $2,000 federal tax credit for my new solar electric system (which has supplied about half of my electrical needs for the past 10 months).

  92. I would like to publicly thank the State of Connecticut for promptly processing my 2008 tax return and, within 30 days, sending me a refund check in the amount of $11.00. CT was the fastest refund processor in my annual state refund processing derby and thus wins my sincere thanks.

    I have taken my refund and deposited it into my savings account, increasing capital available for lending at my bank. That additional capital, small as it may seem, will become part of a small business loan, or perhaps an auto loan, or perhaps a home mortgage loan. Thus, in my own way I shall contribute to stimulating the global economy.

    Money multiplier effect — work your invisible magic now!

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