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Sunday, April 13, 2003

Taxed joys

First, they rip me blind off part of my well-deserved (lets not argue about that please) wages; then they wreck my conscience further by using my money to fund their illegal, dirty war. And just as I resign myself to the discomfort, they come right back to cheer me up by asking me to file my returns.

Rewind one year to Apr 2002: I attempted to file my taxes on Apr 10th. It was promptly rejected on Apr 12th. Second attempt on 12th failed on the 14th. Finally, 1.5 hours from the deadline, on Apr 14th at 10:30PM sitting in Sunder's car, and using his laptop and his wireless network that he so proudly presented me with, I made the submission - this time, it went through smooth! And to think that I was on a vacation!

Roll back to the present: I am working hard and fairly succeeding at perfecting procrastination. This year my returns were further complicated given we had to file for 2 states - MI and CA. Given the expected complications, I decided to get a head start this year and managed to get started on Apr 11th, one day off from the last year. And even before I started, Turbo Tax online refused to entertain me - "2 state submissions cannot be done online. Buy our top-class software CD and work from the comforts of your home machine!". I reckoned that I might as well buy the software since tax software would be reusable over the next couple years - any changes downloadable as patches. Or so I thought!!! But no!!! I was told that they carry a different line. Tax software expire every year. You need to buy them each year to ensure all the new laws are applied. Haven't the good folks at Intuit heard of software patches? And to think Microsoft plays dirty! Anyway, when I was all set to roll, Intuit sprung another surprise - it would cost me an additional 30 bucks for every state I would submit to. By now, I didnt care - I just wanted to get done with it. Once I was through with downloading MI state (hmmm...so they do know how to apply patches), I got started with renewed enthusiasm. I got through the wizard in a breeze (a little over 5 hours - but then considering that I had some windows into the ongoings in the world open too, that was indeed a breeze :)) When I saw the "Submit electronically" option, my joy knew no bounds. And then came the small print - "You can submit to only one state electronically; the other one would have to go by mail.". And "BTW, MI, ALWAYS needs the federal to be filed with the state". So there! Given that they had pretty much made the decision for me, I went ahead and printed the CA returns to file by mail. But then more fine print showed up! "Sometimes, the state returns should be accompanied with the federal return." My memory jogged back to some fine print I came across on another page - "If the Federal returns are filed electronically, they must not accompany the state returns in the mail.". Nice catch-22 situation. But then there are the wonderful folks manning the 1-800 numbers waiting to help us out of such situations. The 2-hour hold I expected was mercifully cut in half! The invisible sweet voice threw a few questions at me, and she was soon wondering why Turbo Tax was printing out my details on a 540 and not a 540NR - non-resident equivalent of the 540. Apparently, even if one of the family is not a resident for some part of the year, then we would have to go with the "non-resident" option! An option that I couldn't find on Turbo.

So there I was sitting, smiling away to glory hoping that my Federal and MI returns would be rejected. I would then be able to go to the nicer folks at H&R block and have them do the dirty job for me! 2 days and some 50-odd bucks into the game, I was still losing and IRS and Intuit sure had a good game going. I have not known a better fun-filled weekend. Oh, did I mention that before I read the fine print the return had been rejected once already and gave me an error message that I am still trying to comprehend. Thankfully, the return was rejected a second time - with the same beyond-my-comprehension reason. I now have all my paperwork neatly tucked into a couple files and am patiently waiting for the clock to tick away to 9AM tomorrow. Thats when the doors to freedom at H&R block open! Till then, I shall rest, taxed!

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