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Crunch Time For IRS Data Centers

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the bits-and-bucks dept.

The Almighty Buck 277

1sockchuck writes "It's crunch time for the Internal Revenue Service. As the IRS processes the annual crescendo of returns around today's tax deadline, the state of the agency's infrastructure depends upon who you ask. IT executives at the IRS say it has made huge strides in modernizing its data centers, which processed 139 million returns and issued $298 billion in refunds in 2009. Independent tests say the IRS web site is the fastest US government site, and one of the fastest on the web. But a key government watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, says the modernization effort hasn't moved quickly enough, and continues to fault the IRS for security weaknesses."

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Good for them (2, Insightful)

Rallias Ubernerd (1760460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858652)

Its crunch time to process their robberies

Re:Good for them (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858676)

How 'bout them roads you drove to work on today?

Re:Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858710)

I work from home you insensitive clod! :-P

Re:Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859184)

Thine art Amish, Thou insensitive clod!

Re:Good for them (0, Flamebait)

Rallias Ubernerd (1760460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858732)

The sidewalk between my two houses, paid for by me?

Re:Good for them (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858816)

What? You don't use any goods or services delivered over the road/highway system?

Maybe, no kids in school or aging parents on social security or medicare?

Perhaps you are isolated from any form of terrorism? Maybe you've never been affected by crime?

Well, then you should be happy for your good fortune (although you seem a bit isolated) and just shut up and pay your taxes

Re:Good for them (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859114)

just because they help in some way doesn't mean that they help in the most efficient way, then he should complain for either taxes that more fairly charge him for the services he uses or that they be better administered. we chose a democracy so that we could complain.

Re:Good for them (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859744)

complain all you want. Just don't call it robbery - that's hyperbolic.

Re:Good for them (4, Interesting)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859400)

I don't use thousands of clerks to figure out what could be a flat percentage of people's income. I also don't use nuclear ICBMs and wouldn't want to. I do send money to places like Haiti, already did before the earthquake, and do a lot more good with it without some random number of federal fuck-ups handling the money on the way there and getting paid a salary out of my funds to fill out more paperwork about it.

Just exactly how much waste, corruption, and antisocial behavior is acceptable? How much of our taxes actually pay for services? How much of our income does the empire deserve, and how much are we willing to give up for stupidity in our name?

Re:Good for them (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859518)

i'd rather be isolated from any form of anti terrorism...

Re:Good for them (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858738)

You mean the ones built buy my state?

Re:Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858848)

With federal money?

Re:Good for them (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859380)

States receiving less Fed money than paid Fed taxes(IE, can legitimately complain about the Fed stealing from them):
Washington(D)
Oregon(D)
California(D)
Nevada(D)
Colorado(D)
Texas(R)
Minnesota(D)
Wisconsin(D)
Michigan(D)
Illinois(D)
Florida(D)
New York(D)
New Jersey(D)
Delaware(D)
New Hampshire(D)
Massachusetts(D)
Connecticut(D)

Hrm... Only red state is Texas. Guess I'll have to move there before I can bitch.

Re:Good for them (1, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859238)

Yep those, the ones built with matching federal money.

Re:Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859456)

You may only drive on roads built by your state, but I would like to personally thank for contributing to the federally-funded construction and maintenance of the roads I use every day. Really, thank you.

Always the roads (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858802)

Sure, if you want to put it that way, I'll admit that I use about 5-10% of what I pay for when it comes to government. And I'm barely even middle-class.

Let's put this into perspective: we're talking about the most expensive, most powerful government AND world empire (with military bases in some 150 countries) in history. If you don't think the US government has WAY more money than a government needs to provide useful government services, then either you're not thinking hard enough, or you're in the business of government yourself.

Re:Good for them (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858860)

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department. And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post on Freerepublic.com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Re:Good for them (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858984)

::applause::

Funniest thing I've read in _forever_.

William

Re:Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859160)

You must not be very well read then, William Adams, if this is the first time you're seeing that.

Fuck, I remember seeing printouts of that stuck up around campus back when Reagan was in office.

Re:Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859382)

Domain Name: freerepublic.com Creation Date: 1996-09-23

Ronald Reagan Presidency: 1980-1988

Hyperbole much?

Re:Good for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859726)

Because, of course, nothing existed unless it was first posted to a web site? So the Magna Carta, the US Constitution, the US Declaration of Independence, Candide, even 1984 didn't exist before they appeared on a web site. You really need to get out more.

Re:Good for them (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859344)

haha, yeah man, without the government we would all be dead! or at very least we would all be injured on the job! thank god for bureaucrats!

False dilemma (3, Interesting)

mahsah (1340539) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859420)

Your argument is a false dilemma; either the government will provide these things, or they will not be provided. It ignores the alternative of other institutions providing them.

Re:False dilemma (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859632)

Mankind has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and yet these services only became available when the government stepped in and provided them. Read up on working conditions during the Gilded Age before all of the various safe employment laws and agencies were created for one example. You can also read up on the deplorable conditions in meat packing plants before the USDA stepped in.

So, when exactly were all of these other institutions going to get around to providing any of this stuff? People keep saying if we got rid of the government the private sector would provide, but the fact is the private sector worked without significant government intervention for quite a long time, and it sucked ass for anyone not belonging to the moneyed elite.

Re:False dilemma (3, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859650)

Your argument is a false dilemma; either the government will provide these things, or they will not be provided. It ignores the alternative of other institutions providing them.

He doesn't imply that they wouldn't be otherwise provided. He states that they are provided as a justification for taxes. Some of those agencies do things that I think would be better done through other means, but I recognize that the money I pay actually does go to something, or many somethings.

Re:False dilemma (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859746)

I know I'd just love it if I had several different competing police departments to choose from. What could go wrong there?

Re:Good for them (1)

Rallias Ubernerd (1760460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859636)

you've posted that before

Re:Good for them (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859758)

Some inaccuracies:

1) The USPS is self-sufficient. They do not get money from the Congress' budget.
2) The Federal Reserve is not the one who prints money. The US Mint is. The Federal Reserve is what keeps the money worth what it is (or at least tries to).
3) A significant amount of tax money goes to defense research. While there is certainly trickle-down effect (the internet being one), the majority of the research stays behind closed doors. Yet, this "defense" budget has done little for US citizens except incite hatred in other parts of the world to the point where they take extreme actions in order to get revenge.

If there was one major source of funding for terrorism in the world, it's your tax dollars. And while the funding isn't always directly going to the terrorists (Iran), it certainly can be (Al Queda).

Re:Good for them (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859022)

How 'bout them roads you drove to work on today?

I'd like to believe that we could find a way to fund infrastructure projects without the Rube Goldberg machine that is the United States tax code. In the ideal world I would be able to figure out my taxes with nothing more than my year end paystub and a multiplication operation.

Re:Good for them (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859308)

And that is the big issue for most of us. I don't mind paying taxes (to some reasonable extent). It should be fair, transparent and should NOT require the hiring of an expert nor should it require weeks of fighting with some remarkably complex software. While manipulation of the tax code for social purposes does work to a limited extent, we've managed to take it to insane heights with no real attempts to climb down.

Re:Good for them (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859396)

I'd like to believe that we could find a way to fund infrastructure projects without the Rube Goldberg machine that is the United States tax code. In the ideal world I would be able to figure out my taxes with nothing more than my year end paystub and a multiplication operation.

A lot of the bloat on the tax forms is breaking down simple mathematical formulae (Pay "3% of everything over $12345") into 10-line sequences of arithmetical operations. "Copy line 1 to line 2. Subtract 12345 from line 2. If the amount is over zero, multiply by 0.03."). Presumably the UI goal here was to make sure that even someone who didn't understand percentages could perform the calculations.

A lot of the other bloat in the US tax system is the inexplicable requirement to keep every form down to "one or two pages at most". When something can't fit on a single form, there's a glorified subroutine - "To figure out line 84, GOSUB 6251", and of course, form 6251 is essentially a big chain of GOSUBs. I have no idea what the UI goal here was, but it was probably the case that some bigwig, decades ago, said that no form shall be longer than 1-2 pages, and the system has optimized for that metric, even though they've worked around it by requiring multiple forms and worksheets, the calculations for which never actually appear on any form.

Much like the law itself, the tax forms reflect the worst practices of COBOL and BASIC.

So I'd go one step further than just cleaning up the code. I'd make it impractical to write the bad code in the first place, and I'd do it like this:

Amendment 0: Every Congressman shall file his or her own taxes, on paper, under open-book exam conditions, specifically: locked in a room containing nothing but dead-tree versions of every IRS form, a copy of the tax code, and using no technology more sophisticated than a pencil and four-function calculator. No outside aid (accountants, lawyers, or food) is permitted in the examination room at any time.

They have to either rewrite the code so that compliance was practical, or they'd starve. I'd be OK with either of those outcomes.

Re:Good for them (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859246)

How 'bout them roads you drove to work on today?

Not a single dime of federal income tax goes to build/maintain roads or any other piece of infrastructure. Most of it goes to pay off interest on the national debt.

You get the todays talking out of your ass award (3, Interesting)

wsanders (114993) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859692)

So I guess the "This Road Is Being Paid by Federal Funds" sign I drove by on the way to work today was all part of a vast conspiracy.

For years, there's been a pie chart near the end of every for 1040 instruction booklet showing how incoming and outgoing funds are allocated. Interest on the national debt is 8%.

This year it's on page 100: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040.pdf [irs.gov]

Tu quoque (1)

mahsah (1340539) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859376)

Tu quoque is not a valid argument form.

Re:Good for them (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858986)

Nah... like they said - there's security weaknesses. You only get taxed if you aren't smart enough. Hold on a sec, I hear someone outsi

HaHa! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858678)

They won't have much on me, 'cause I don't have a paper trail.

Talk about planning for peak usage... (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858744)

Wouldn't it make more sense to spread out the submission of tax forms throughout the year?

At least from an IT standpoint, you would probably need one tenth the infrastructure

Re:Talk about planning for peak usage... (1)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858812)

From a budget/fiscal standpoint that would be a nightmare.

Re:Talk about planning for peak usage... (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858874)

You mean that business needs take priority over IT efficiency? Drat, foiled again!

Re:Talk about planning for peak usage... (1)

brian_tanner (1022773) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859342)

I don't really see why. I'm a Canadian, so things are obviously different, but it seems likely that this works similarly. Currently, here, everybody can file their taxes early, but they *must* be in by the end of April or fees and penalties start accruing.

Many people leave it to the last minute and there is a mad rush in April to get taxes taken care of.

After you file your taxes, you get a notice of assessment. Why not put a "due date" for the following year on the assessment. If before April is too early, then spread the due dates between the end of April and the end of some later month (August, for example). This could go in a round-robin rotation, so your due date gets later by one month every year before restarting back to April. You could still submit your taxes earlier than your due date. The due date just determines when penalties and fees start accruing for unfiled or unremitted taxes. All of the "fiscal year" stuff stays the same, no additional accounting headaches.

Re:Talk about planning for peak usage... (1)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859216)

Wouldn't it make more sense to have sane and very simple (maybe five whole pages at most) tax laws?

The tax return being one page (a single side). Tax rates capped at 10 percent of a person's income, all income levels. You can have up to half of your tax burden removed for charitable contributions, but you *always* have to pay a minimum of 5 percent.

And, on top of this, a constitutional amendment to cap U.S. federal spending to no more than 7.5 to 10 percent of the GDP. And, immediately cut all U.S. Federal government spending by half, across the boards. Audit the Federal Reserve and, where any improprieties are found, prosecute any and all involved individuals to the fullest extent of the law. And, make the Federal Reserve an actual government entity, and not a private entity with so-called government oversight.

The above would be a good start at putting some sanity into our current so-called representative government.

colorado net file about five lines (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859552)

They have a flat tax for every income category - income, gains, munis, etc. So you give your fed-taxable-income, add back the state tax deduction, multiply the tax rate, subtract prepaid tax to obtain refund/owed. I could say/do this on an elevator ride.

I find the one tax rate unfair for investment income and poor people. But its damn simple.

Re:Talk about planning for peak usage... (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859740)

No it wouldn't. Because of people who earn no income, but get a company car, house, gulfstream jet and expense account. Those would be simple expenditures for the company, not income for the employee.

But you could fit that instance into the 5 pages, but what about the next loophole, and then the next?

Re:Talk about planning for peak usage... (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859476)

Taxes are calculated on an annual basis, and everyone's year starts at the same time for simplicity's sake and to avoid mass confusion. Once we start from this basis, having a single deadline is basically unavoidable, since if my deadline is earlier in the year than my neighbor's, the system is unfair to me because I have to file earlier and possibly pay money earlier than my neighbor does. So, the only real solution that's fair to everyone without causing mass confusion is a single deadline.

Of course, the major problem is that everyone just loves to wait until the deadline to do anything, so the IRS gets slammed. Most people filing taxes are owed a refund, so it's in their own best interest to file as early as possible. Further, if you're owed money the deadline really doesn't apply to you anyway. You can file weeks or even months after the deadline, and as long as you don't owe any money the IRS will happily accept your return and cut you a check. Still, though, most people will file at or very near the deadline because they're both paranoid and lazy: Too lazy to file early, and too paranoid to file after the deadline even if they're owed a refund.

Personally, I filed my taxes back in February and got my direct-deposited refund in less than a week. Taxes are far less painful if you avoid the rush at the deadline.

"Can we do it under the table?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858760)

"I got a little tax problem," Homer Simpson, sotto voce to an IRS agent who proposes he goes undercover to bust Monty Burns. But, apropos, the IRS guy says "this government computer can process over nine tax returns per
day."

Oopsies! (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858776)

processed 139 million returns and issued $298 billion in refunds

The only image in my mind as I read that sentence is: a young programmer, a quality control analist and a tester all with red faces and slaughtered lamb eyes, while I hold an anomaly notice document on my hands.

The document has a post it stuck on the right, so the line of zeroes can extend beyond the paper's limit.

Re:Oopsies! (2, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858826)

By those numbers the average refund is $2143.88. WTF.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858878)

Mean and median are two entirely different things. I can easily see a relatively small percentage of people really skewing the numbers.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858880)

I obviously can't speak for others, but we purposely claim "0" on our paychecks so that more than necessary is taken out...sure, we could use that little bit of extra money throughout the year, but we like getting the big honkin' checks when we file. They're useful for buying that expensive gadget we've been holding out on or to bolster our savings.

Re:Oopsies! (2, Insightful)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858948)

or you could just save in a bank account. even your wallet or a shoe box under the bed would work if you don't have access to a bank.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859014)

We do save a bit from each paycheck, but this way ensures we save even more. Since we have no access to it until we get a check back for the amount that we overpaid, we can't spend any of it. Once we get our returns we deposit them into our savings in one fell swoop. It seems silly to have to do it this way, I know, but it helps keep us on track.

If we were The Watchmen, we would be watching ourselves.

Re:Oopsies! (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859166)

I used to do the same thing... but found an easy way to make sure I didn't have easy access to the money, but could still earn interest on it during the year.

Set up automatic withdrawals from your regular bank account(s), to be deposited into an investment account. It's very cheap to do, and if you seed it with a few thousand when you set it up, you won't get hit with monthly fees for maintaining a low balance. Different banks have different products for this kind of service, so talk to your banker.

You could also set up rolling CDs to do about the same thing, but I prefer having the separate investment account, since I can tap it in case of emergency without penalty.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859046)

I realize interest rates are low at the moment, but you really feel the need to loan the government money at 0%?

Your money management skills are so bad that you can't put some money in saving account instead of spending it?

Re:Oopsies! (2, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859208)

you know, i used to agree with you 100%. I aim for a zero refund (which is hard with the way tax rules are changing so quickly). But then I had a change of heart when I realized not everyone is like me.

Some folks aren't as disciplined with savings, and this is a way they force themselves to save. I think it is wonderful when people realize their areas of relative weakness and work around it. If someone has a drinking problem... is it so bad that they avoid driving by the neighborhood bar? Sure, it might be an incovenience, but they are avoiding a bigger problem.

So, if someone chooses to use the IRS as their piggy bank... good for them. At least they recognize a problem, and are doing something about it.

What I would recommend is that GP at least look at some type of savings account that auto deducts. But even if he doesn't, then it is great that he has some type of savings plan.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859454)

Parent pretty much has it right. We do save money out of each paycheck, but not nearly as much as we would like to...we can't help it, we like shiny stuff :/

The way around it was preventing us from having ANY access to some bit of money that we would get in one or two checks once a year. We have gotten much better over the past couple of years, and in another year or two can probably start aiming for getting less of a return...but for now, it is helping us save. We already make plenty of money to pay our bills and save a little out of each paycheck, so it isn't like not having the extra money in each paycheck is a problem.

Re:Oopsies! (0)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859070)

You realize that's about the worst possible way to manage your money, right?

Re:Oopsies! (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859248)

Um, no... no it isn't. The worst way to manage your money is to spend like mad with no correlation to income.

GP is using a suboptimal savings strategy. But he is saving. In the grand scheme of things, he is on the right side of the savers' bell curve. Most people's idea of savings is to have enough for Friday night's party.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859698)

The worst way to manage your money is to spend like mad with no correlation to income.

Wait a minute! Doesn't the US Government have a "business method" patent on this?

Re:Oopsies! (5, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859072)

but we like getting the big honkin' checks when we file.

So you like giving the government an interest free loan? You do realize you could be getting interest (albeit small) on the money which could then be used to pay for that expensive gadget.

It's one thing to game the system by using the one-month float on a credit card. It's quite another to float the government a nearly year-long, interest-free loan.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859384)

Back when you could get a savings account with 5% APY I would agree with this wholeheartedly. Now that most institutions offer less than 1% APY it really makes me question if the effort is worth it for what amounts to one movie ticket.

Re:Oopsies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858892)

Makes sense, I got a refund of over $5000. It just means they withheld far too much over the year, probably because I screwed up my W-4 or something.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858914)

By those numbers the average refund is $2143.88. WTF.

Doesn't it annoy 45% of Americans that the government holds $2k of their money, giving it back in April? There must be a better way!

(Like the way I pay tax: the correct amount straight out of my paycheque every month.)

Re:Oopsies! (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859358)

Easier said than done. I used to get an almost "0" or pay a small amunt each year. However, now I am not even remotely able to guess. Why? The rules on deductions keep changing. I ended up with close to a grand back because of graduate school deductions, child care deductions and other items that I didn't anticipate.

And frankly, the number of write offs is ridiculous. I would much rahter have a system that is more transparent and more simple. As much as I make, I should be paying a higher percentage of income tax. But I also shouldn't get nickle andd imed with hidde taxes.

Simply be honest about what things cost and what will need to be charged.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859540)

Read the posts above you. Many people actually like it because they get that big check. Many of those people don't quite grasp that they are giving the govt a 0% loan, but some of them understand exactly what is happening (like the guy above) and are fine with it because they are terrible at managing money and aren't motivated enough to look into alternatives.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859586)

Doesn't it annoy 45% of Americans that the government holds $2k of their money, giving it back in April? There must be a better way!

If you can predict your income and deductions and set your withholding (W-4) or pay your estimated taxes appropriately, you can end up with a near-zero refund or liability at the end of the year. Most of it isn't the IRSs fault; people either don't bother to do this or want the big check. It doesn't help that if your end-of-year liability is too high, you can be liable for a penalty as well.

Re:Oopsies! (1)

gregthebunny (1502041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858926)

Thanks to the home buyer tax credit [federalhou...credit.com] , I (and many others) will be getting a refund in excess of $8,000.

Re:Oopsies! (3, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858938)

By those numbers the average refund is $2143.88. WTF.

Not surprising to me. My wife was bitching at me last night because we paid in less than $50 instead of getting a multi-thousand-dollar refund like her friends at work. They're all blowing the cash on down payments for new cars, vacations to the Caribbean, etc. Meanwhile, I continue to budget for the big-ticket items and save for them on a monthly basis.

So I told her that she wasn't bitching when she was spending the extra $200 she took home each month, and she wasn't bitching when she saw the amount I had put into savings from my pay last year.

Needless to say, I slept on the couch.

But the point is that among people who get a refund, a lot of them get a BIG refund. Even when I was a kid, I was getting refunds around $2k because I was a dependent of my parents even though I made less than $20k a year.

Re:Oopsies! (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859172)

Wow, your marriage is pretty fucked up.

Re:Oopsies! (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859466)

Wow, your marriage is pretty fucked up.

There may have been some exaggeration of the relationship details for humor purposes... but the facts of the cash etc are the same.

The truth is, I don't have a wife. The only person I sleep with in my bed is an inflatable doll I call Sally, and she doesn't complain much about money.

I slept on the couch last night because I couldn't be bothered getting the Cheetos crumbs out of my sheets, and the night before last they scratched me up something fierce.

Re:Oopsies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859622)

Needless to say, I slept on the couch.

Why do American men let their wives demote them to the couch? It's offensive and degrading. It implies that the wife owns the bedroom, and the husband only sleeps there because she allows him to.

Priorities (1)

PSandusky (740962) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858780)

So... instead of hiring more auditors for this year, they could have put a few megabucks toward some infrastructure improvements. Else that's a government contribution to recovering job losses...

Because, of course, IT manufacturers and professionals don't necessarily need the money, either. (Albeit there wouldn't be as many needed, which might leave some extra government money for someone else to use...)

Oblig. (5, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858792)

So... the servers are being taxed right now?

Re:Oblig. (2, Insightful)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859096)

Actually, I bet that they are being overtaxed right now...

Re:Oblig. (1)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859118)

Taxed is right. I know this isn't for personal tax returns but this year the IRS and DOL are going with only electronic filing for the form 5500. Most returns are filed on the last day of the extension period. According to an outside annalists the servers can handle the load, but there isn't enough copper and fiber going into the town that houses the data center handle the load. According to them it would take about 100 times the pipes to handle the expected load. Yeay EFAST2! Please file early.

Re:Oblig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859500)

http://instantrimshot.com/ [instantrimshot.com]

So many billions wasted for nothing (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858822)

Because we have a system built on the idea of coercing people to behave a certain way than a system which encourages productivity, savings, and the like. A system which allows petty government bureaucrats to punish or reward particular constituencies on near whim. Hence we are saddled with such a complex system that billions are spent by the government to administer it and billions more by individuals and companies to comply with it.

and in the end, we still spend nearly 40% more than we take in.

Re:So many billions wasted for nothing (2, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859000)

It's not really that complex. Something like 80% of people can get the largest refund possible by filling out the a single form, with around 15 entries on it. The only way this isn't true is if you spend a lot of your paycheck on things like student loans, mortgage interest, charity, or medical bills. All of which encourage things that help to stabalize our society, so I don't really see much of a problem with them personally.

Re:So many billions wasted for nothing (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859156)

If anyone has dealt with taxes in multiple countries, including the US, could you add some insight? It's hard to say whether the US is complicated without knowing what it's like elsewhere. Of course, simplifying tax returns may require a complete overhaul of how we collect tax in the first place.

Infrastructure (2, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858832)

You know, the first thing I look at when designing IT infrastructure is where to simplify the existing process before converting it to a computer-assisted model. The IRS tax laws, exemptions, and everything else is unnecessarily complicated for what they are charged with. Don't fault the IRS for being slow and making mistakes when you've saddled them with such a dense and overly complex process that people can make a career out of gaming it.

Processing several hundred million requests is something some web servers do on a daily basis without much problem.

Re:Infrastructure (3, Interesting)

FredMenace (835698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859366)

Totally agreed with your first paragraph - increased complexity dramatically increases computing (including development) costs, and the complexity of the system is Congress' fault, not the IRS's.

While the second point is true in terms of overall visits, I'm not sure how many of those sites are processing that many form submissions (over SSL) with the amount of data submitted with a tax return (including schedules, supporting documents, etc.), that then needs to be validated (one assumes) and inserted into a database (though probably a lot of the business-logic/accounting type validation may occur during later batch processing).

Plus other high-volume sites use their servers year round (more or less - though to the extent that it's seasonal, some, like Amazon, started renting out their excess capacity at other times), and such infrastructure is certainly not cheap. What happens to all this computing power the rest of the year?

Question (3, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858842)

Unless you owe a lot in taxes or back taxes and just need the extra time to come up with the money...why would you wait until the very last day to file? Come on...you are going to have to do it eventually, why not do it early and get it over with?

We e-filed back in the third week of January...and both of us got our Federal & State returns literally three business days later direct deposited. If you don't owe any money and are due back a tax return, why wouldn't you file as soon as possible?

Re:Question (3, Insightful)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858928)

Simple. Doing taxes is stressful. The tax code is confusing. The IRS is feared. Generally, people will avoid doing things which are unpleasant, and doing taxes is doubly so because of the fear involved. Perhaps you simply don't suffer from any anxiety about the process, or have better-than-average coping skills.

Re:Question (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859054)

No, I just use Turbo Tax...takes 20 minutes to do mine and my fiancee's taxes. Granted, we don't have a massive portfolio and our money isn't divided into 20 different places, but still...it does most of the work for you, and costs about the same if not slightly less than going to a CPA.

Re:Question (2, Informative)

spyder913 (448266) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858950)

Because procrastination is easy! And some people don't know if they're going to get a refund until they bother to fill out their taxes.

I had to wait this year until my wife got her Schedule K-1 done, which took forever.

Answer; lowers the chance of an audit (1)

random coward (527722) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859004)

Filing your taxes early increases the odds of an audit.

Re:Answer; lowers the chance of an audit (1)

voidptr (609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859588)

[Citation needed]

Re:Question (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859036)

because there are other things you could be doing and you should be able to file until the last minute. anyways there is a chance you might die before the taxes are due and then you wasted time you could have spent having fun instead of doing a boring and as it turns out pointless task. there you go procrastination explained.

Re:Question (2, Informative)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859262)

The pedant in me must point out that you file your RETURN and await your REFUND (if due one).

Re:Question (1)

RicktheBrick (588466) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859624)

The IRS should have a internet site where I can log on to and see all of my income for any particular year. They should have their own tax software where all that income would be automatically entered into that program. After filing one year the next year should be accomplished with only a small amount of clicks. The program would ask if there are any changes from last year so if everything is the same about your deductions(dependents and standard deduction) than it should take one less than 10 minutes to file electronically. I have a letter from the IRS stating that I owe over $10,000 in back taxes. This is because I sold some securities that I inherited from my mother to pay her other heirs their fair amount. I did this in January of that year and so I received a statement around that time. When I filed my taxes over a year later I had forgotten about those securities so I failed to report them. They did not effect my taxes anyway since the cost basis of them equaled their income but the IRS seemed to get only the selling price and not the cost so they sent me that letter. All of this would have been avoided with the site with all my income so that I would have at least checked it before I filed my taxes.

Security issues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31858870)

Interesting about the security complaints...

I'm sure the IRS will _always_ be slammed about security issues - it's a very complex organization and their
systems' complexity is commensurate with that. So, it stands to reason that there will always be one security
issue or another - the question is, how bad are the issues and how quickly can they respond to a detected
problem with a temporary workaround and eventually a more permanent solution. Until the next one(s)...

Step One... (0, Flamebait)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858898)

...surface-to-air missiles. There's still a lot of douchebags out there.

It could be easier (4, Interesting)

Mr_Blank (172031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858924)

... if it were simpler. Why is the Federal Tax Code 3.7 million words? If the tax code were simpler, then those servers would have a much easier time of it.

      Scanning today's news turns up a lot of good examples for how the code could be simplified.

The five dumbest parts of the U.S. tax code [msn.com]

1) Ethanol credits increase the price of food, and give paper manufacturers more money in credits than they make from selling paper.
2) Exemption for inherited stock-gains.
3) Mortgage-interest deduction encourages people to buy as much house as they can afford, and encourages owning over renting to the detriment of other investments.
4) Exemption on employer-provided health insurance encourages employers to give more health insurance instead of wage increases, and discourages health insurers from competing on price.
5) Municipal-bond-interest exclusion gives more benefit to rich bond owners than it does to the municipalities that issue the bonds.

Congressman Wyden leads effort to simplify tax code [statesmanjournal.com]

Taxes: There is a Better Way [fosters.com] by U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg

Re:It could be easier (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31859372)

3) Mortgage-interest deduction encourages people to buy as much house as they can afford, and encourages owning over renting to the detriment of other investments.

You realize that in order to not destroy the economy completely that the phase-out on this would have to *start* after 30-50 years? If the mortgage-interest deduction was immediately eliminated I'd be willing to wager that you'd have a 50% foreclosure rate within 3-5 years. The elimination of this deduction does not just hit people that are on the edge in terms of finances/credit/debt; this hits people all the way up to those with wages in the 50th - 70th percentile and zero debt outside of their mortgage.

I can only assume one or more of these is true:

a) You don't have two brain cells to rub together;
b) You're one of those "Dr. Strangelove" types that thinks we'd all be happy living in mega apartment complexes and conserving as many resources as possible (don't laugh, SciAm had plenty of articles like that from people with Ph.D degrees a couple of years ago during the height of the global warming frenzy);
c) You fancy yourself a "Robin Hood"-type person, doing your best to bring down "the man."

Besides, any member of Congress knows that they would lose their seat if they even HINTED they were thinking about sponsoring legislation to remove the mortgage interest deduction.

I agree the tax code is needlessly complicated, but there are a lot better places to start looking immediately for simplification than the mortgage interest deduction.

Re:It could be easier (0, Redundant)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859510)

Two words: Turbo Tax. Takes 20 minutes to do my taxes and my fiancee's taxes, and since it hooks up directly with ADP's servers, it fills out nearly all of our information automatically. Since we have already used it before, it also automatically fills out our info from last year.

Best part? Even if you use their highly overpriced service of paying by taking the money out of your refund, it only costs around $80-$90 per person for both federal and state...about on par or even a little less than if we went to a CPA.

Seriously. Give it a try. It works REALLY well and it's super easy.

Re:It could be easier (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859704)

3) Mortgage-interest deduction encourages people to buy as much house as they can afford, and encourages owning over renting to the detriment of other investments.

That one's the third rail of the tax code. Try to touch that and your political career risks getting zapped into oblivion. Note that Wyden isn't touching it. In principal I dislike it, in practice I've already bought the house and I'd be pretty ticked if it went away. Since its existence contributes to the cost of housing, eliminating it would cause another real-estate crisis, and we're not over the last one yet.

Website != Datacenter... (4, Informative)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31858934)

The IRS's web presence (rather than their back-end data processing) is very good because they are heavily Akamaized: everything is hosted through Akamai's infrastructure, so its very quick to get to the IRS website.

Additionally, their site design is actually remarkably good and easy to navigate, so its both technically quick and usably quick.

But this is really orthoginal to the main issue in the article, which is the back-end, in-house infrastructure for processing all the returns.

taxation is theft. (0, Troll)

darjen (879890) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859268)

It's time to admit that government makes everyone worse off than we would otherwise be. And before anyone says "but wait, they built the roads!", yes, I believe roads could be provided voluntarily without taxation. along with every other important function they do.

Re:taxation is theft. (2, Funny)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859668)

And before anyone says "but wait, they built the roads!"

And the aqueduct...

Re:taxation is theft. (1)

Cappadonna (737133) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859762)

It's time to admit that government makes everyone worse off than we would otherwise be. And before anyone says "but wait, they built the roads!", yes, I believe roads could be provided voluntarily without taxation. along with every other important function they do.

You are an idiot. Taxation is no more theft than paying your cable bill. You're a citizen, you benefit from clean water, not getting blown up terrorists, the internet and a crap load of other things the government either pays for directly or has subsidized for development. Unless you like brown water and having the rent cops and firemen, stop whining. Please get over your Ayn Rand fantasy -- even Jesus told his disciples to pay their taxes. Roads provide voluntarily? By who? Whose gonna pay for the asphalt, upkeep or to make some knuckle head doesn't cause a 10 car pile-up because he's doing 110 at rush hour? And seeing as UNIX and ARPNET were both military (read government) creations, Slashdot wouldn't have existed with US taxpayers money.

Only website I've ever seen "closed" (4, Funny)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31859514)

Maybe it's so fast because it only has 50-75% uptime. The IRS website is the only website I've ever seen that was "closed." See here [irs.gov] .

This Application Is Available During the Following Hours:

Monday - Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Eastern time
Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time
Sunday: 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern time

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