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Why does anyone still file taxes by snailmail?

Updated on August 11, 2008
File your taxes via the internet. It's fast, easy and safe!
File your taxes via the internet. It's fast, easy and safe!

There are many impenetrable mysteries in this world. Why is Worcestershire Sauce pronounced Wustusha'? Why do people go on Maury and subject themselves to humilation on national TV in order to get a paternity test when they could have gotten one locally or by mail in complete privacy for a hundred bucks? Why does anyone still file their income taxes by snailmail?

Almost every developed nation has implemented some form of electronic filing. The day of working out unfathomable calculations with a pencil on an endless sheaf of worksheets should be long gone, but paper filing still is the choice of the vast majority of income tax filers in the world today.


Maybe it is the fear that the information could be in some way intercepted during filing. To those people, I have important, late-breaking news: This is the 21st century and you have no privacy anyway. Even if an identity thief could get hold of your tax return figures, it certainly wouldn't help them in cloning your ID. Just a couple of months ago, the outgoing government in Italy, out of appallingly sheer spite and malice to embarrass the incoming administration, decided to place on a government website the tax returns of every single Italian citizen. Sure, there was an uproar, but exactly what damage did it really do to individuals, other than finding out that the guy who has that 42 bedroom mansion up on the crest of the hill declared that he earned barely $5,000 last year?

Perhaps it is the dire warnings by accountants and bookkeepers that doing your own taxes online without their "expert" assistance will cause you to miss valuable deductions. That is sheer poppycock, as more than 99% of all filers will get an exact calculation done by any of the tax software on the market (even that available as no strings attached freeware) and anything that might sneak through incorrectly is likely to be picked up by the recalculations done by the taxation agency anyway. If someone is running a business so complex as to require a professional accountant, they shouldn't be even considering what format they file in, and let the pro do the work that they're being paid for.

Just a bit of googling will come up with some superb choices for tax return freeware. Many of them have wizards which shield you from the incredibly obtuse calculations where you add up line 8457, 8503 and 8591, multiply that number by your percentage of declared income from extraterrestrial sources, divide that number by the number of moles in your left armpit, and arrive at a conclusion where you just have to write a big check anyway. These tax return wizards will walk you through a series of fairly simple questions, have you enter various numbers from documentation that you should have on hand, and then with a click will not only calculate out your return, but will actually interface with the government computers to file your return over the web in a matter of seconds.

Electronic filing is not just the wave of the future, it is a complete no-brainer. If you didn't file your taxes electronically last year, you should definitely take advantage of the convenience and the simplicity this year.


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