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    I loved this from Hit and Run about a push to regulate tax preparers. They sometimes take advantage of people, you see, and nice Mr. Government wants to put a stop to that.

    No, of course, he’s not going to do it by actually making it easier to do your own damned taxes. What do you think this is, a country founded on self-reliance or some other such anarchist balderdash? You’re supposed to call the IRS helpline.

    “It’s always fun to ask public officials with the power to simplify our tax code whether they do their own taxes,” Katherine Mangu-Ward begins, then cites this from the Daily Caller:

    Rep. Xavier Becerra, a top Democrat on the Ways & Means Committee that was holding the hearing, is keeping a watchful eye on those tax preparer services, who he says sometimes fleece unwitting customers. “Americans who could fill out a simple [tax forms] are being charged hundreds of dollars to do what they” could on their own, he said.

    So does Becerra prepare his own taxes?

    “No. I have a tax preparer back home who’s been doing it for me for many years,” he told The Daily Caller. Becerra explains that his finances are more complex — and his tax filings fall under far greater scrutiny — than ordinary Americans who could figure out the forms if they tried. [Don’t you seriously want to reach through the screen and thump people sometimes?—SRK]

    How about the chairman of Ways & Means oversight subcommittee that asked for Shulman to testify Thursday?

    “Oh no, no, no, no, no. I have an accountant that I’ve been using for years,” Rep. John Lewis said. He said he needs to head home this weekend to fill out paperwork for his accountant.

    Lewis’s suggestions is for people who are having a hard time with the forms go to the IRS for help. “Get on the telephone, call an IRS service center or go visit a service center … and have them walk through their filing,” which, he noted, the IRS does for free.

    Of course, as Reason‘s Mangu-Ward points out, the problem is not just that time is money, and “walking through” one’s filing with an IRS representative—strap the rat cage to my face NOW, please!—takes more time than it’s worth it for a lot of people. It’s also that the tax code is so en-pretzel-ated that even IRS employees can often only give it the old college try when you ask them a question.

    But in my experience, it’s not just sticky, ambiguous clauses that get them. Years ago when I moved to Japan, I did my own taxes. (If you’re American and have never lived abroad, you may not know that you have to file a federal return, but you do.) Having received my Japanese income statement for the year—a tiny form with the numbers carefully written in by hand by our bookkeeper and then signed off on with the big, square company chop—I called the help line to ask what I should do with it. Some, but not all, of the information was available online then (1998 or so).

    The guy was nice. I don’t think he was stupid. But it took me forty-five full minutes (on an international call!) to get him to stop telling me to get my company to issue me a W-2.

    “This is a dif-fer-ent coun-try, sir. They don’t have W-2’s. I live in Tokyo. I was hired in Japan. I’m paid in yen. My company is registered in Japan. I can translate the income statement for you, but then you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m telling you my whole income. Do I have to go to the embassy and get it notarized? I’ll follow the rules. I just don’t know what they are.”

    Now, of course, all I really had to do was to ask one of the longer-serving Americans at the office what he did when he filed his taxes. I subsequently did that. But I was flabbergasted that it was necessary. Maybe it’s my dessicated, schematic, divorced-from-emotion, homosexual-male brain, but I was envisioning an instruction booklet with diagrams of the official statements used in the various countries in which lots of Americans earn income, with guidelines about which number counted as your gross income and how many of the little cells you had to translate. I mean, I knew what my gross income was, and I didn’t mind translating the whole damned form—but it was perfectly obvious that this guy, though assigned to the help line for international filers, had never considered the possibility that other countries don’t issue W-2’s.

    I mean, look, I wish the tax-preparer industry would fall to the ground; there has to be better value the market could get from people who are skilled in both numbers and law. But in the here and now, with the tax code so baffling, it’s not surprising that people are willing to pay them good money in exchange for fewer headaches, less time spent navigating among multiple documents, and an end to that nagging sense that they’ve missed an exemption or something else in their favor.

    9 Responses to “納税”

    1. Eric Scheie says:

      Don’t you seriously want to reach through the screen and thump people sometimes?

      That irresistible temptation got out of hand in November of ’96. So I quit drinking for almost nine years. Now I try not to watch certain things while under the influence.

    2. Julie says:

      I have never had to call the IRS help line, but my experience with government help lines in general is very bad. During the very vexing process of getting my husband a green card when we moved here, we had to call the immigration help line once. We were told that since his 90-day visa was about to expire but we were far, far from finishing his green card process, and since he couldn’t get a renewal of his 90-day tourist visa (nay, not even though he was married to one American citizen and the father of another), our best option would be to just let his visa expire and have him be illegal for a while until his green card was finished. Apparently, being here illegally is no impediment to getting a green card. The lady on the phone was not concerned, even though we lived in New Mexico where there are many surly and armed border patrol agents checking ID of non-blonds, that he might be harassed or jailed for being an illegal. Because, you know, what’s the big deal, right? I just could not believe that a representative of a government agency was recommending that we do something illegal.

    3. Sean says:

      Well, she wasn’t the one who was going to be deported—what skin was it off her, uh, nose? I’m surprised there’s no exemption for people who have a green-card application in process. That seems like one of the few reasonable excuses for overstaying a visa.

    4. Julie says:

      There is. She just didn’t know that. We eventually figured it out, though.

    5. Sean says:

      Oh. Glad you figured it out before there were any hastily bought plane tickets involved. :)

    6. Julie says:

      I know–considering this happened when I was 8 months pregnant with our first son, we were in no mood for a deportment.

    7. Sean says:

      I can imagine not!

    8. Julie says:

      Oh goodness…after I wrote this, I thought, did I really say “deportment?” But I thought I couldn’t have. I guess I did. Thanks to the end result of pregnancy #2, I have not been getting enough sleep. Deportation!

    9. Sean says:

      It’s okay. Relationships with Japanese people force you to think about deportment way too much…I knew what you meant.

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