You know how people say, “There’s something wrong with our tax system if people can’t do their taxes on their own”? I think I agree with that. A special caste, almost a priestly caste, has grown up: tax accountants, tax preparers. They exist to help us do our taxes, or to do them for us.
Reminds me of a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with a friend from Denmark. He was extolling the virtues of the Danish system: you give the government all your information, and they compute your taxes for you and send you a bill. Simple. I understand the allure of this idea, especially around this time of year. This year I get to file a federal return and two state returns, with major penalties on at least two of them because of some unexpected income in the year. It's a pain, and thank goodness we have software to help us.
I'd still prefer not to give the government my information if I don't have to. It's a losing battle, of course, or maybe a lost one: most of my finances are reported to them anyway in the normal course of doing business. But at least there's a chance to reverse this. Once the government is doing your taxes for you, the odds of reversal drop to infinitesimal levels.
But an even more important point is that with the authorities doing my taxes for me, I'm not as involved in the tax system. Right now I can see the loopholes: railroad workers get special treatment, as do the blind, the aged, those affected by natural disasters, and so on. It's right there on your 1040. Some loopholes are harder to find, of course, which is why we still have tax accountants. But if we turned over all preparation to the government, I lose whatever insight I currently have.
My Danish friend thought I was being a typically paranoid American. I hope my response was typical.