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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 14, 2005 5:59 AM. The previous post in this blog was Vicki vs. Ted. The next post in this blog is Told you so. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Get ready

Whew. I just finished writing an article about some of the latest goings-on in the wild, wacky world of the federal estate tax. Lifestyles of the rich and dead. A real page-turner. Redford's going to beg me for the movie rights to this one.

During breaks in the writing process, I decided to kick back and have some fun by finishing up the preparation of my own taxes. Once again, the wife and I celebrate her birthday week by stuffing six envelopes with six lovely checks. God bless America. Especially you, Diane and Lisa.

I couldn't help but notice how long the process takes. It annoys me more every year. Couldn't we come up with a tax system that's simple? All those forms are cutting into my blogging time.

This year California's tax officials are taking a bold step to make life a little easier for some of the taxpayers of that state. They've started up something called "Ready Return," a pilot program in which the state fills out your income tax return for you, based on the dirt that the state already has on you from your employer, your bank, etc. The state sends it to you, and if you've got nothing to add or subtract, you just send it back, with a check if you owe. If you don't owe, you send it back and get your refund. You can even e-file with it. If you like, you can round-file what they send you and do it the old-fashioned way (or hire someone to do it for you).

Some folks are howling in protest -- naturally, H. & R. Block doesn't want this sort of thing to catch on with other states or, heaven forbid, the feds. And the "libertarians" (and I use the term advisedly) are screaming that it's an invasion of privacy.

To which I say, bullpuckey. The state already has this information. If there's any invasion, it's the state having it in the first place, and we're way past that point in tax history. So what's wrong with the revenuers showing you what they've already got, and asking you if you've got anything else to declare? Nothing, in my book. I think it's a cool idea. I'm sure most of the folks they're targeting for the pilot really, legitimately do have absolutely nothing to add or subtract, and for them, the state should do the work.

The Cali bureaucrat who's making it happen? A former eBay executive, naturally.

Comments (13)

It's always struck me as infringing on my life that so much of my business must be revealed to the government. It's not bad enough that our system needs so much information to make sure they are extracting enough. But after earning and paying they want to know how I spend and invest as well so they can ding me again and again. This is the real rub. After submitting to the demands and tasks it takes to pay on earnings I must shape all of my decisions around tax "guidelines" meant to take more. Simple savings for retirement has limitations and will result in "penalties" if one saves too much.
This should be no one's business but the person doing the saving. Americans deserving of the freedoms this denies should be able to take their own darn money and save, invest, spend, loan, give away or burn it without reporting it to anyone let alone the government.
Owning a few rental properties has really soured my view of the system which has my floor, counter, table and day blanketed with debris I should be able to gather up and throw away.
By this time tomorrow I'm sure I'll want to do something far less polite with it.

I seem to recall hearing (NPR?) that lots of other countries have personal tax filing systems much easier than ours and many are like the Ready Return. I know, it's hard to imagine that the IRS is not only incompetent in nominal terms but also relative terms. Of course, more and more countries are adopting the flat tax and we're quite behind on that too. [awaits Jack to take the bait]

I'd like to thank Columbia Funds. My taxes were finished weeks ago but their inexcusable accounting negligence has caused me to receive an Amended 1099. Now I get to enjoy more forms. Yahoo! Pass the scotch.

We may be lagging behind such world leading contries as Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia, the Ukraine,and Estonia.

However, I'm not convinced that's a crowd we should follow.

I do have to say that the Multnomah County I-Tax is extremely simple, ain't it?

Declare your income. Take an exemption based on your filing status. Multiply by residency, and by .0125, and you're done. It'll even calculate it for you, on the web.

Lessons to be learned by other governments?

The reason the county tax is so simple to calculate is because it rides the coat tails of Oregon and Federal tax computations already made by the taxpayer.

Well, _I'm_ a libertarian and my first impression is, "why the hell not?" I agree that the state has way too much information about me, but as Jack points out, that battle was fought (and lost) long ago. So why shouldn't _I_ get some benefit from the status quo? Let the government send me a return (or a "bill" if you like), and allow me to either agree or revise it and then either pay or get a refund, as the case may be.

So how much is it going to cost to implement that idea? I smell another $30-million-plus(!) snafu ready to happen. And with all the charm of the state making a mistake.

If it worked, neat idea, but it's an idea brought to you by The People Who Can't Stop thanks.

I agree with Steve, too much of the tax code revolves around "behavior modification" and results in an awful lot of documentation/paperwork to justify your claims.

Why are we taxing income, anyhow? Oh, I know, 'cause that's where the dollars are and all that. But it seems to me that if we were to eliminate income taxes and move exclusively to consumption taxes, we'd put more control in the hands of the individual while making it more difficult to evade taxes.

Just a thought... not a popular one, of course, because of the supposed "regressive" nature of sales taxes (which concerns can be mitigated) and because it could have a dampening effect on our heavily consumer-based economy (though I think that can also be mitigated). But I think it's an idea worthy of serious consideration.

For what it's worth...

A great tax professor once said, "You can have a fair tax system, or a simple one."

Or something like that.

I don't know what to think about this "Ready Return" business.

It seems to me that a large number of average tax-payers (at least those who do their own taxes) are not taking all of the deductions they are entitled to take - for example a deduction for State & local taxes paid in the taxable year.

Is the State going to do a better job of identifying possible deductions for them? Won't there be a tendency on the part of the taxpayer to just assume that the government "got it right" without looking into it any further? I mean, I can't tell you how many people I run into who still don't understand that if their employer is witholding way too much from their paycheck, they can fill out a new W-4 and get more money back each paycheck, rather than waiting for their tax refund.

And to you get a "hall pass" on audits if the government basically did your taxes for you?

Actually, they have pretty crack teams in the Oregon Department of Revenue. It is not your federal IRS.

What a bunch of cry-babies. I just finished our taxes, mine, our boys, and Frank's. Worse than the usual because I have to file for self-employment for my freelancing via schedule C -- but, you know, phish-phah. A piece of cake.

Nothing, nothing, to filling out a 990. (Don't know what that is? ask any poor piddling underpaid bookkeeper for any non-profit in town...) -- this is clerical work, dude, dudette, worth, oh, if you subscribe to the "market" value rate -- what - minimum, and a tip? That's it.

Quit feeling sorry for yourself "cause it's so hard..." If your taxes are really that hard, you are making enough money to have someone else do them for you.

And, if that's the case, I really don't want to hear you bitch.

Your April 14 column talked about the State of Oregon having our personal information. Bad news, ain't just the state.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I started to purchase a ticket on-line. Fortunately, on a whim I decided to read their instructions closely, and unless I totally mis-read their fine print, I discovered that simply using Ticketmaster as a vehicle to purchase a ticket automatically--and legally--gave them carte blanche to access not merely my computer files, but my bank account and passwords as well. Additionally, it authorized them to dole out my personal and private info to anyone they saw fit, for any reason. Profit, perhaps?

Scary, but that was only one of the problems I've encountered while dealing with large companies lately. Too many seem to have adopted a "Screw You, Consumers--Take It Or Leave It" attitude. As Ticketmaster learned, I chose to leave it.

So when transacting business over the phone or Net, I highly suggest having a close look at their fine print and disclaimers first, then taking detailed notes during any sort of purchase. Later, should you be treated in a manner less than you deserve, don't be afraid to write as many letters as it takes. Bitch loudly and often until you receive an answer, if not satisfaction. Don't let the greedy bastards get away with it.


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

In Vino Veritas

Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
Marchigüe, Cabernet 2013
Inazío Irruzola, Getariako Txakolina Rosé 2015
Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio 2015
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Avissi, Prosecco
Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
Pique Poul, Rosé 2016
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Gascón, Colosal Red 2013
Cardwell Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
Tomassi, Valpolicella, Rafaél, 2014
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2013
Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2013
Locations, Spanish Red Wine
Locations, Argentinian Red Wine
La Antigua Clásico, Rioja 2011
Shatter, Grenache, Maury 2012
Argyle, Vintage Brut 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
Benton Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
Primarius, Pinot Gris 2015
Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
J. Bookwalter, Protagonist 2012
LAN, Rioja Edicion Limitada 2011
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2009
Denada Cellars, Cabernet, Maipo Valley 2014
Marchigüe, Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2013
Oberon, Cabernet 2014
Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
Balboa, Rose of Grenache 2015
Ontañón, Rioja Reserva 2015
Three Horse Ranch, Pinot Gris 2014
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
Nelms Road, Merlot 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris 2014
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2013
Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
G3, Cabernet 2013
Chateau Smith, Cabernet, Washington State 2014
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16
Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
King Estate, Pinot Gris 2015
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2015
Trader Joe's, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2015
La Vite Lucente, Toscana Red 2013
St. Francis, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
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Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
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Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Marc Maron - Waiting for the Punch
Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
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Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
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Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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