I Got a Little More Libertarian Today

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

So I got an email from TurboTax this afternoon telling me that my federal tax return has been rejected. Reason? Invalid Social Security number. So I double checked the return. Same Social Security number I’ve been using since I started paying taxes. Same number that’s on my Social Security card. So TurboTax gave me the 800 number of the Social Security Administration so I could call to verify my number. Except that when I called, they told me that they can only verify numbers over the phone for employers, not individuals.

So tomorrow I, loyal citizen, will dutifully drive out to my local “Social Security field office” to make sure my government is still okay with this whole “existing” thing that I’ve been doing. I’d have done it today, except that like any other office whose primary motivation is serving its customers well, the hard-working folks at SSA close at 4 each afternoon.

The kicker: According to the TurboTax help forum I consulted, other people this has happened to say they were fined for filing late, even though they had actually filed on time, and it was the government’s fault that their Social Security number was rejected.

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78 Responses to “I Got a Little More Libertarian Today”

  1. #1 |  Olly McPherson | 

    Oh no! Something like this would never happen with AT&T!

  2. #2 |  Woog | 

    For all the numerous flaws of “first step” IRS eradication programs such as the Fair Tax, reasons such as this rank near the top of the list for the elimination of our very own arm of the Financial Terror Police.

  3. #3 |  JS | 

    “So tomorrow I, loyal citizen, will dutifully drive out to my local “Social Security field office” to make sure my government is still okay with this whole “existing” thing that I’ve been doing.”

    You’re writing lately has been brilliant.

  4. #4 |  Radley Balko | 

    Oh no! Something like this would never happen with AT&T!

    I have AT&T. And I’ve had billing problems with them in the past. They have a 24-hour service line. I called and got attention to my problem.

    And if I don’t like AT&T, I can switch to another carrier. I can’t switch to another IRS.

  5. #5 |  JS | 

    Oh, and here’s an idea-what if the government didn’t assign us all a number at birth? What if regular people had to take care of themselves and each other? It could lead to freedom

  6. #6 |  CommonSense | 

    That has to be a software compability problem, not the IRS.

  7. #7 |  BamBam | 

    Why switch to another IRS? Abolish this one and put all of the fiendish employees (they are human, they are your neighbors, friends, family — they are your jailors and violence bringers) on the street where they belong.

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    You didn’t use that stupid “E-file” crap, did you?

    I assume that because otherwise, how would they (Turbo tax) know your return was rejected?

  9. #9 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “I Got a Little More Libertarian Today”

    How is that possible? You’re an anarchist, Radley! Remember?

  10. #10 |  Jesse | 

    You would only be fined if you actually owed the IRS additional tax money. If you expect a refund, the IRS is happy to let you wait as long as you want to collect it.

  11. #11 |  Elliot | 

    Radley Balko: “I can switch to another carrier. I can’t switch to another IRS.”

    Nothin’ but net!

  12. #12 |  Waste93 | 

    JS,

    You are not required to have a social security number. They are completely optional.

  13. #13 |  JS | 

    Really? Well nobody told me that. Of course I was pretty young when I was born.

  14. #14 |  Kidseven | 

    Perfectly highlights the problem. You’re on fire Radley.

    I remember going in to pay for a business license and asking the bitter slob behind the counter what, exactly, I would get in return for my $75. The entire room of employees looked up from their Doritos to see who would ask such a thing.

    “What do you get?” she said.

    “Yes,” I said, “Like, am I going to be part of the Chamber of Commerce? Or do I get a listing on some website? Anything?”

    “No. You just pay.” She said.

    I asked her what would happen if I didn’t get the license. She told me they didn’t have the resources to find and chase after people who didn’t comply, so probably nothing.

    So I left.

  15. #15 |  Bob | 

    Here’s the problem:

    http://turbotax.intuit.com/support/kb/e-file/ef-rejections/3761.html

    You need a 4 digit ‘PIN’ to submit an e-file. Which is stupid. You don’t need one to freakin’ MAIL your taxes in. The PIN you used last year simply doesn’t match what you used this year.

    E-File is the stupidest thing ever devised. Don’t use it. In fact, I have to wonder where it came from…. The whole system smacks of “Tax Software companies lobbied and were allowed to design the E-File system to pad their bottom line”.

    Tragically…. this is where we’re going. Corporate interests wagging the tail of a bloated, out of control government that’s in the process of fucking us all.

    I just got a little more libertarian, too.

  16. #16 |  Aresen | 

    So tomorrow I, loyal citizen, will dutifully drive out to my local “Social Security field office” to make sure my government is still okay with this whole “existing” thing that I’ve been doing. I’d have done it today, except that like any other office whose primary motivation is serving its customers well, the hard-working folks at SSA close at 4 each afternoon.

    If you arrive by 4:30 AM, you can be near enough to the front of the line so that it can be straightened out by 4:00 PM

    .

    Friday.

    .

    the 30th.

    .

    of July

    .

    2021.

  17. #17 |  LOLcat | 

    Turbo Tax is a POS. I wouldnt be surprised if there software was the one fucking you over and not the govt.

  18. #18 |  Waste93 | 

    JS,

    Makes we wonder though. Can you return your Social Security Number to the government? Could be fun to find out.

  19. #19 |  Olly McPherson | 

    “And if I don’t like AT&T, I can switch to another carrier.”

    Not everywhere.

    But your readers are right–the IRS is the “Financial Terror Place.” The only thing holding back utopia is the government’s ability to collect income tax! Persevere, brothers!

    @KidSeven–my driver’s license doesn’t give me any benefits, so I shouldn’t have to have it, right? Damn the man!

  20. #20 |  Waste93 | 

    As Bob said, the issue is most likely the PIN. A friend of mine had the same issue. The reason they use the PIN is that you can’t physically sign the E-File return like you have to do with the mailed in ones. So they are using the PIN as an electronic signature.

  21. #21 |  Mo | 

    Presumably, they close at 4pm because of budget cuts, not because of laziness. That was just gratuitous nastiness.

  22. #22 |  Aresen | 

    Waste93 | April 21st, 2010 at 6:15 pm
    As Bob said, the issue is most likely the PIN. A friend of mine had the same issue. The reason they use the PIN is that you can’t physically sign the E-File return like you have to do with the mailed in ones. So they are using the PIN as an electronic signature.

    Yep. A 4 digit PIN is totally uncrackable.

    For at least 27 nanoseconds.

  23. #23 |  Packratt | 

    Mr. Balko,

    Thank you for filing a complaint with the IRS. We are very sorry to hear that our records were incorrect and that you still exist.

    Though, we are happy to inform you that you now owe an existence tax because you’ve existed longer than we had hoped and, since you were late filing for your existence, we have added the requisite interest for your convenience.

    Thank you for using the IRS for all your taxation needs.
    Sincerely,
    The IRS.

  24. #24 |  bobzbob | 

    My cable company never gets any of my info or billing screwed up, but when they do I can get a hold of a helpful customer service person immeadiatly. Not.

  25. #25 |  Elliot | 

    Just wait until Health Care Deform kicks in and you have to prove to the IRS that you have health insurance.

  26. #26 |  claude | 

    Seems rather simple… if Radley doesnt exist, how could he owe any taxes?

    U musta really pissed off some government agency.

  27. #27 |  JS | 

    Waste93 “JS,

    Makes we wonder though. Can you return your Social Security Number to the government? Could be fun to find out.”

    Kind of reminds of the old Seinfeld episode where Kramer decides to opt out of receiving mail and the postmaster general has him kidnapped and bullys him him into keeping quiet and accepting his mail.

  28. #28 |  Aresen | 

    claude

    Seems rather simple… if Radley doesnt exist, how could he owe any taxes?

    U musta really pissed off some government agency.

    I’d list them, but I’m leaving on vacation in 3 months.

  29. #29 |  zendingo | 

    the truth is out there, keep fighting the good fight you agitator!!

  30. #30 |  Adam | 

    “I can’t switch to another IRS.”

    Not true, the IRS has competitors! In fact, I happen to own one of them. I’ll send you my wire transfer info via private e-mail – just ship your tax dollars over to me and see what kind of attention you’ll get!

  31. #31 |  Woog | 

    @#7 BamBam,

    We’re likely in agreement that the goal is the cessation of all direct taxation of the federal government upon We the People. Barring the ability to go directly from the horrid mess inflicted upon us now to the properly sized and cheap-to-run fedgov, I think, along with the bonus of getting rid of the asinine tax code, the shock and awe of a 30% tax – essentially shoving the price tag of government in everyone’s face – would cause such hue and cry that the fedgov would be forced to begin downsizing immediately.

    Automatic withholding was one of the nastiest tricks played upon the American public.

  32. #32 |  Dan Z | 

    Government isnt in the business of helping people or providing quality services at all. There is no incentive for them to do a good job, the whole system now is a gigantic boondoggle of taxpayers money.

  33. #33 |  Elliot | 

    Woog : (#30) “Automatic withholding was one of the nastiest tricks played upon the American public.”

    You have none other than that paragon of libertarianism, Milton Friedman to thank for that monstrosity.

    Hey, for an even better “libertarian” solution, they could abolish the IRS and follow Neil Boortz’s “Fair Tax” plan. Rather than having part of your withholding taken after you earn the money, you could pay the taxes up front and then wait for your monthly “reimbursement” check. Way to go Neil, make every single person in America beholden to Uncle Sam for a monthly check.

  34. #34 |  z | 

    You think it’s bad now? Wait until you need to verify your SSN in order to get a job. Thanks immigration “reform”.

  35. #35 |  Woog | 

    @#32 Elliot,

    Sorry, I just love it when I get so carried away attempting to explain the logic behind a concept that I forget to actually write about the concept…

    I was referring to the Fair Tax. I don’t like it at all, and the only reason I think it might not be a horrible thing in and of itself is that when the remainder of the American populace that isn’t already upset and outraged over the legal and fiscal excesses of the fedgov get slapped with an obvious 30% tax on EVERYTHING, they will instantly demand lower taxes. In other words, I see something like the Fair Tax as a stepping stone to the total elimination of direct federal taxation.

    (The only thing I despise more about the Fair Tax than the monthly checks is the forced conscription as tax collectors of sellers and also service providers.)

  36. #36 |  Radley Balko | 

    My cable company never gets any of my info or billing screwed up, but when they do I can get a hold of a helpful customer service person immeadiatly. Not.

    If you’re like me, your cable is provided by a company that was granted a monopoly on the service . . . by the government.

  37. #37 |  Banzel | 

    Don’t forget your photo ID or they won’t let you through the door.

  38. #38 |  firsttimecommenter | 

    This strikes such a rage inducing cord with me that I will leave my first comment ever on a blog.

    Last year I was unable to efile and the reason was that the IRS had my birthdate wrong (supplied by social security). In order to fix it I was required to go stand in line at the social security office all day with my birth certificate to get them to correct the date.

    This year my return was rejected for the same reason even though social security has the correct date. According to the IRS social security never told them that the birthdate had changed and they cannot just ask for confirmation. Apparently they must be spoon fed the information.

    Now I will probably have to go in person (again) since they are unlikely to be helpful over the phone and try to get one government agency to speak with another government agency.

  39. #39 |  tomwright | 

    Stuff like this is why I am starting lean towards a quasi-Georgist tax policy, though one where people still own the land.

    Base the tax rate on a combination of the square feet of land you own, and the square feet of the home you own.

    take 10% of the budget a given jurisdiction, divide it up across the acreage and that is the land tax.
    The rest is divided up over the square footage of homes and businesses.

    The percentages are just for illustration. The idea is to make sure everyone pays a share, but no penalize those in rural or farm areas where large tracts of land may be owned, but not use government services.

    I may end up paying 60 cents a square foot on my land, and 5 or 6 dollars a square foot for my house.

    I suspect the size of a house or business is more directly related to government services used than size of land is, and it is almost certainly a fair indicator of wealth.

    And it is objective, where value is somewhat subjective. It is also fairly non-invasive of privacy, since measuring lot lines and the exterior of a building do not require snooping around. Just a tape measure.

    No income statements, no audits, no inside home inspection, no cranky had-an-argument-with-the-wife inspectors snooping around guessing at how much your home is worth and whether your improvements are taxable. No reporting requirements, no filings, nada.

    And no need for SSN’s either. Land and buildings are hard to hide and hard to skim off. No real underground economy, and underground homes are, well, underground.

    And you have some control over it. Just live in smaller homes to pay less tax.

    Better than the fair tax or any sales tax, I think. Both of those still require auditors and invasive searches and privacy violations. A guy with a measuring tape is pretty innocuous.

  40. #40 |  Stephen | 

    I kind of liked a method mentioned in Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Number of the Beast” where you appraised your own property. The catch was that anybody could buy your property at the appraised value at any time. If you raised the appraised value to keep them from buying, you had to pay 3 years back taxes at the new value.

  41. #41 |  CharlesWT | 

    “Both of those still require auditors and invasive searches and privacy violations.”

    This is a feature, not a defect.

  42. #42 |  Neil | 

    This reminds me of two great songs: “Where have all the average people gone” by Roger Miller, and “Big City” by Merle Haggard.

  43. #43 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    @ #25

    Health Care Deform

    I have learned a new phrase!

  44. #44 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    On AT&T vs the IRS:

    No matter what the problem or the limited alternatives or the pain and cost to me personally, multiply it by 100 and I’d still choose the hand of the market versus the fist of the state.

    So, there’s my starting point.

  45. #45 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I suspect the size of a house or business is more directly related to government services used than size of land is, and it is almost certainly a fair indicator of wealth.

    Like when I sign up for a health club. My rate is determined by the size of my house and how much property I own and also by how much I bench…to be fair.

    Playing the game of “create a clever way to tax” just kills morality, sanity, and truth.

  46. #46 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    You have none other than that paragon of libertarianism, Milton Friedman to thank for that monstrosity.

    Yes, he screwed the pooch on that one. But, I still blame Congress the most for raping the same pooch every year since.

  47. #47 |  Rob Robertson | 

    I just recently heard about the passing of Radley Balko. I’m going to miss him and his excellent blog. My condolences to his dogs.

  48. #48 |  MikeZ | 

    This is another good reason for always estimating the number of deductions high on your W4 form. As I always owe money I’m never tempted to electronically file anything and print my taxes manually on April 15th.

    I’m pretty sure if you owed the government money and you gave them a check. They’d figure out that SSN mishap for you lickety split, so they could cash the check. Or at the very least there would be good proof that you weren’t late when you recieve your canceled check.

  49. #49 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Well, I can’t say I’m surprised that the Social Security folks might not be certain whether you exist or not. I mean, what other financial institution sends out a statement that estimates what you’ve contributed. If there’s no repercussions for having to admit that their book-keeping consists of guesses, then it should come as no surprise that they are guessing as to who you are and whether you exist.

    And yes, to them it makes perfect sense that you should be fined if they make an error. After all, they see you as one simple thing: a source of revenue.

  50. #50 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    And just think! If only e-Verify had passed, it would now be against the law for you to work anywhere until this gets straightened out.

  51. #51 |  BSK | 

    My e-file was rejected for some reason or another. I just printed it out and mailed it in the old fashioned way. Though I suppose that just perpetuated another useless government faction… the postal service. D’oh!

  52. #52 |  Warren | 

    Sounds like somebody is talking about the desirability of a government run Post Office.

    He needs to be sent a message.

    YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

  53. #53 |  Chris | 

    I’m with the anti-e-file folks. I believe you’re more likely to get audited (read that somewhere recently), and I don’t feel like paying for the privilege of making things easier for the IRS. Plus, I figure my taxes so that I have to write a check every April, and I’d rather have the money in my checking account for a few more days (though the “float” isn’t worth much right now).

  54. #54 |  Joey Maloney | 

    If only you could pay your taxes with chickens, this never would have happened!

  55. #55 |  Frank | 

    #10 After 3 years you won’t get a refund.

  56. #56 |  dmoynihan | 

    Had something very similar happen to me, though I’m using H&R Block’s TaxCut. There’s actually a way to locate the pin number on the IRS website, but… inputting it doesn’t guarantee the damn thing’ll actually work.

    Reason for Efiling is you’re supposedly less likely to be audited, however, I was audited last year. And, I suppose, will be next year too.

  57. #57 |  alexa-blue | 

    maybe you’d be better off trying to solve this through turbo-tax?

  58. #58 |  Tom G | 

    You know, there are other e-filing alternatives besides Turbo Tax….

  59. #59 |  Josh | 

    As a substitute for your electronic pin, you can also use your adjusted gross income from the prior year tax return to verify yourself if that was indeed the issue.

  60. #60 |  PW | 

    This is why I believe it to be a moral duty of every human being to not report any source of income other than what is unavoidable due to the paper trail and certain threat of legal action if you do not. Taxation is theft at gunpoint.

  61. #61 |  capn_amurka | 

    I agree wholeheartedly with Chris. Even if e-file were free, I would still choose snail mail. I *want* the taxation process to be slow and expensive for those taxing me… If I could, I’d send my returns in Morse code by telegram.

    For those of you who send payment by check, I provide the following, some years ago I owed the state of Michigan taxes. I sent them an over-sized photocopy of a check that I filled out and signed. While a valid and bona fide instrument of payment, it couldn’t be processed mechanically as other checks could. That check didn’t clear for more than six months…

  62. #62 |  Matt | 

    H&R Block Online is pretty slick. I tried to do my taxes offline this year again (darn Schedule C requirement) and gave up after using the 10th supplemental form. I paid H&R Block to do them for me this year. I was done in 10 minutes, filed, accepted and refunded in less than a week.

  63. #63 |  Segodnya | 

    Be very careful with H & R Block and TaxCut. I used to do technical support for that app, and I can tell you that there were numerous problems with data privacy, willful disregard for online TaxCut server capacity shortfalls and updates for tax form, and at least two moron idiot vice presidents in a row in charge of the whole thing (Gene Goldenberg and Brian DiGeorgio, the latter of whom later went to Sprint). I’m glad your experience with H & R was good, but please be advised that that organization exists because the IRS exists.

  64. #64 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Yep, that is the IRS for you. Their fucks are actually your fucks, and your fucks are also your fuck ups. They never fuck up. If you fight it you might eventually win, but chances are you’ll have to spend lots of time fighting it, and I bet most people just do a quick Cost/Benefit calc and go “fuck it,” and pay it.

    Probably a good time to plug Hall and Rabuskha’s flat income tax proposal.

    Works very much like a VAT, but is progressive in average rates, the tax rate is 19% over all, and you’d do your taxes on a postage card sized form. No really. Wages & Income less the family allowance multiplied by 0.19. That’s it. All those hours currently spent on doing taxes, all the money….now spent on other things…productive or fun things.

  65. #65 |  Steve Verdon | 

    My cable company never gets any of my info or billing screwed up, but when they do I can get a hold of a helpful customer service person immeadiatly. Not.

    As Radley notes, a government created monopoly. However, competition is starting to form up. FIOS is one option, as are various satellite providers. Also, there is the route I’ve gone: Netflix. I get my television and movies all via Netflix and have no cable, not antenna, no nothing save a DVD player and/or the computer. Yes, yes I know there is still government involved, but that isn’t the point. The point is that competition is almost always a good thing when it comes to satisfying demand, keeping prices low, innovation, and so forth. Makes it very odd that so many liberals hate it so.

  66. #66 |  scott in phx az | 

    If you want to use tax software fine. But print off the forms, sign em and mail em. The IRS won’t reject them because of your social security number.

    If of course there is a problem with your SSN you will have to eventually straighten that out but your return won’t be late.

  67. #67 |  goes211 | 

    @39 – What about the massive # of people who rent, rather than own? What about those of us who own multiple properties (rentals). Sounds like I continue to be on the hook for even more, and the low-life bums that rent from me continue to get a free ride, despite them generally being on the receiving end of the government while I always end up on the paying end.

    On another note, as a small business owner, I’m convinced that if more people just had to DEAL with the government on a more regular basis, we’d have riots in the streets. Most people are limited to just getting what’s left of their paycheck, never pay attention to the pay stubs showing the massive % of taxes taken away, and are happy to get a “refund” which they don’t realize is their own money!

  68. #68 |  Tom G | 

    #64 – The problem I have with any flat tax proposal is that it usually is phrased as “revenue neutral” – in other words, the income to the government doesn’t go down. Also, if you honestly don’t have a problem with handing over 19% (or under similar proposals 17%) at the point of a gun to people who make up their own minds how it ought to be spent, I’d say you are part of the problem.

  69. #69 |  Woog | 

    @#67 goes211,

    At the risk of going off-topic, property tax on a rental is ultimately paid by the renters. If taxes go up, the renters pay more.

  70. #70 |  Scott | 

    While I understand the frustration of dealing with the dolts at any government agency, part of this is your own fault – why did you wait until (too close to) the deadline to file your return? You’ve had your W2s and other tax statements since early February. Granted, you would still have had this SSN issue, but at least they wouldn’t be adding insult to injury with late filing fees.

    Also, forget Turbo Tax. I’ve been using TaxACT online for the last 4 or 5 years with absolutely no issues at all.

  71. #71 |  Joshgeek | 

    @goes211-
    If the low-lives you *choose* to rent to are only able to do so with government entitlements (see: assistance), then you are recieving your payment by virtue of those entitlements. I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s how it is. Find tennants who responsibly provide for themselves, or you only have yourself to blame. Would your high tax rate be a problem if the low-lives payed a rate comisserate with yours? Just curious.

    Radley, sorry to hear about your frustrations. Hope things work out.

  72. #72 |  Chris Brown | 

    Check your birthdate. My daughter’s e-file was rejected because SS had her birthdate wrong. They require the SS No. & birthdate to match up.

  73. #73 |  bobzbob | 

    “At the risk of going off-topic, property tax on a rental is ultimately paid by the renters. If taxes go up, the renters pay more.”

    Wrong, basic economics: The rental price is determined by supply and demand. If the demand is sufficient then landlords can pass the increased tax onto the renters, but if there is excess supply the landlord will have to absorb the increased costs out of profits. Usually, the market being efficient, prices are in equilibrium – increased costs end up being shared by the both parties. Anyone with any business experience will tell you that often you cannot simply pass increased costs onto customers, more often than not competition prevents you from raising prices at all!

  74. #74 |  Radley Balko | 

    Wrong, basic economics

    A property tax affects every property in the jurisdiction where it’s imposed. It has little effect on competition between rentals. Meaning it has little effect on “supply and demand” at all, save for the would-be tentants driven to other jurisdictions by the higher rents. When all the suppliers get hit with the same increase in costs, that’s really the easiest time to pass the costs on to consumers.

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