That must have been what the IRS was thinking last week when it sent Brian and Jackie Lawson 24,000 copies of Form 1040 instructions for 2005 returns. That's right. Two-four-zero-zero-zero instruction booklets.
They arrived at the couple’s Chimacum, Wash., home in 12 boxes, 2,000 booklets per container.
The Lawsons had requested some tax material. It’s just that they wanted instructions for the 2003 edition of the Form 1040 so they could fix a filing error on that year's return.
And, oh yeah, they just wanted one copy of that two-year-old version.
The problem that the Lawsons were trying to correct has been costing them $300 a month in back taxes, hence the attempt to get material to correct it. Brian told local reporters that he hoped the IRS’s own mailing error would make the agency a bit more understanding of the couple’s prior-year mistake.
He also said he and his wife learned a valuable filing lesson: ''We should have had someone else do our taxes.''
All those stacks and stacks and stacks of IRS paper might have the Lawsons also considering going paperless this tax season.
The IRS has been accepting electronically filed returns since Jan. 13. Yesterday, it also launched its annual Free File Alliance program. Now some taxpayers who go to a special IRS Web page can prepare and file their returns there at no cost.
The tax prep and e-filing is provided through 19 private tax software companies. Each company has its own criteria to determine which filers it will help file for free. Some use age, others rely on state residency and all have some form of income threshold.
And speaking of income thresholds, the key number this year is $50,000. Some Free File Alliance companies require you earn much less than that to use their services; others go right up to $50K mark.
But you’re totally out of free-file luck at the IRS site if you make over that amount.
Details on the Free File Alliance, its history and some things to consider if you choose to use it can be found in this story on Bankrate.com.
TODAY'S TAX TIP: A couple of Free File Alliance members offer free tax prep and e-filing to older taxpayers. The IRS also has some special, tax-saving rules for older, as well as visually-impaired, filers. If you're age 65 or older or blind, you get a larger standard deduction just by checking the correct boxes on your tax return. Details here.
PERSONAL CREDIT: I must thank my sweet husband for being the first one to pass along the Lawsons’ story to me. As part of his job, he scours newswires for sports stories. Really! Don’t you wish you got paid to do at least a little bit of that? And being such a good spouse, he always keeps an eye out for items I might find interesting, which basically is anything with the word tax in it.
So when he spotted the tale of too many forms on the AP wire last Friday, he promptly e-mailed it to me. Yeah, our home offices are separated by one thin plaster wall, but we still e-mail each other throughout the day. We save actual conversation for the dinner table.
Anyway, the AP had picked up the story from its original publication in the Peninsula Daily News. As any good story of someone’s or some agency’s screw-up is wont to do, it subsequently got play in several newspapers (here’s the New York Times version) and then earned mentions in TaxProf and MauledAgain tax blogs.
But my husband was first!
FILM CREDITS: I’m sure many of you recognize the opening of today’s entry as a famous movie quote. Just which movie you think it’s from says a lot about your taste in films and/or your age.
Younger moviegoers and those who prefer comedies know the phrase from Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974). Classic film buffs immediately recognize its origins in the timeless Huston-Huston-Bogart flick The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).
Tim Dirks provides a very thorough examination of the Bogie film here. And thanks to Stinking Badges, from where I borrowed the photo of actor Alfonso Bedoya, who, as Gold Hat in the movie, uttered the correct line from the script:
"Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"
You can hear the exchange (again courtesy Stinking Badges) between the bandito and Bogie by clicking here.