Taxing times

All across America right now people are fighting their way through an annual ritual called Tax Time. At the beginning of the year Americans seek to find out whether the income tax they paid the previous year was the right amount, or if they owe more, or if the government owes them a refund.

It's made all the more complicated by the fact that income tax comes in two flavours - federal and state (and some places charge local taxes too) - and either, both, or neither may yield refunds or deficits.

Then you've got to figure your deductions, if any. Amongst many others are things like expenses related to searching for a job, charitable contributions, and the cost of cleaning any uniform your job requires.

Not only that, your income can cover things like lottery winnings or stock dividends, all of which must be taken into account.

Preparing your tax return on your own, for most people, is way too big a headache, so you pay an accounting firm to prepare it for you, which can cost a hundred or so dollars.

Okay, this year my refund amounts to about a grand after paying the accountants, but the hassle is amazing. And that's not like a kind of bonus, that's money I just overpaid throughout last year.

I never thought I'd say it, but I miss Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs department. They figured it all out for us. I miss having a tax code that pre-determines my tax level. I miss simply getting an end of year P60.

And, yeah, there was no end-of-year big refund, but there was no end-of-year big bill, either.

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