Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread to discuss any topic at any time of the day.

Since tomorrow is tax filing deadline, maybe this is on your mind.  What do your tax habits say about you?

Your Accountant Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself
As tax deadlines near, one preparer explains how reading her clients helps their bottom lines

What personal hangups affect the way people manage their taxes?

Some people walk in the door saying, “I hate paperwork. I hate taxes.” These people are avoiders. They don’t seem to care that much about money. Even if avoiding tax planning costs them money, they’d rather not deal with it. They don’t see themselves as able to get ahead financially. They don’t feel like they have any control, when in fact they do.

Others are procrastinators who have fallen years behind on filing returns, and the onset of the tax season triggers guilt or anxiety. These clients need more structure from us. Before they leave the office, I suggest they set another appointment in advance. Or I say, “Here’s one action to take: When you go back to the office I want you to adjust your W-4 and have an additional $50 taken out of your paycheck.”

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132 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. Our accountant is the CPA at DH’s law firm, and she also helped handle the paperwork when my mom died, so she knows us pretty well. I can’t figure out why she won’t file electronically, though. And yes, I’ve asked her, and she just ignores the question. Every year I swear I’m going to do the taxes myself and every year I cave and give them to her.

  2. Rocky, our CPA also files by paper. Maybe last year he finally went electronic but I can’t remember. I’ve never asked because I’m an avoider and procrastinator. Our taxes used to be much more complicated, which is why we originally asked him (a family friend) to do our taxes. Today I’m pretty sure I could do them myself, but as I mentioned I’m an avoider and a procrastinator. :)

  3. Our accountant does paper filings, too.

    I dropped off the extensions today. Very exciting. A day early!

  4. I filed our taxes in February – we always get about a $10K refund between state and federal. I know I should look into our withholdings but I like the big check. When we first moved here, I worked from home for my old employer and we had to pay quarterly state taxes which is why we used an accountant to begin with. Now we just have DH who is a W-2 employee, so I just do them on Turbo Tax now. My sister was complaining about her husband doing their taxes by hand over the weekend because he didn’t want to pay the $20 to file them electronically (he’s super frugal).

  5. I find this story fascinating:

    http://www.startribune.com/charges-u-economics-professor-didn-t-pay-taxes-for-12-years/419508533/

    . I know I should look into our withholdings but I like the big check

    I was looking into opening an account at First Republican to hold my cash that’s currently in an online account. The interest rates they offer are 0.8% so your 10k would generate about $40 in interest. It’s not worth the effort to try and get to not having a refund.

  6. Among intellectuals academics and many with professional degrees, any bad habits fear or absent mindedness is made worse by the idea that paying personal attention to money matters is vulgar. They just can’t be bothered. This even includes many engineers, present company excepted, of course.

  7. Anyone know why the FAFSA this year requires people to use their 2015 tax returns rather than 2016? The lady who does housecleaing for us just asked me that question. She was very confused because she said they used the 2015 returns when they did the FAFSA last year, and now the site is asking for the same returns again. Why do they want 2 year old information?

  8. The filing date never falls on Sat or Sunday, but the next monday. It is never on patriots day in new England, which made for different dates by region on occasion, , so perhaps they just decided to conform the entire country this year.

    I file electronically, and make payments electronically. If I have a refund, I roll it over to the following year.

  9. meme, doing taxes isn’t vulgar – if anything, it is a patriotic duty, at least in my mind. But it is also mind numbingly boring, and time consuming, and many of us are very busy and don’t have the time to spare. We usually have a CPA go the taxes, but 2 years ago, DH decided he would do them himself. After an entire weekend devoted to filling in little blanks and trying to decide which scrap of paper had the information needed for each blank, he said, never again.

  10. To make the process easier the earliest date for filing FAFSA was moved up from January of a student’s senior year to October, so for this year filers will re-use their 2015 tax returns.

  11. Rhett – I know, I know and I think we’re going to get an even bigger refund next year due to less income/extra retirement account savings.

  12. I don’t know what this says about me.

    I do my taxes as early as humanly possible – usually the very beginning of February. I refuse to pay any fees/Accountant to do so including for Turbo Tax. Most years, I have gotten Turbo Tax free through either my employer or other means (e.g., State Farm used to give policy holders access for free). However, when I don’t haven’t had access to Turbo Tax, I’ve used the free alternatives (TaxAct, etc). I file state taxes on the state website for free.

    Our taxes are fairly simple. Mortgaged homeowners with 2 W-2’s and a very small amount of taxable investments. But even when we had a nanny, I did all the FICA and State Unemployment filings myself. I guess I am cheap about that. And maybe it is a bit of a point of pride.

    We end up getting a little bit back from both the Feds and the State most years. Under $1000 for each. I’m happy with that, but I wouldn’t want to overpay by much more.

  13. I do our taxes when “everything” finally comes in, so I submitted them around March 10. Lo and behold a week later DW gets a corrected 1099 from her broker which, when I flow through the new amounts, results in us getting about $1000 more back. So I’m filing amended returns for both the feds and the state this week.

  14. We have an accountant do ours and we end up doing an extension and filing in October. DH used to do our taxes but then once we moved and it became complicated, he stopped and outsourced it like a bunch of other things.

  15. That is a problem for us too – it seems like we don’t accumulate all the forms and doodads of paper until mid March, by which point it is getting kind of into scramble time.

  16. Add taxes to the long list of things I very happily pay someone else to do. We are still walking our own dogs, doing our own workouts and cooking our own meals, but that’s about it. And I’m considering outsourcing the meals. Life is too short. Or I am too lazy. Or something.

  17. Happy tax surprise this year, in that we were overwithheld. We’ve had trouble dialing it in over the last few years, probably due to varying bonuses/comp. A few years ago, we were so far under we just barely squeaked past penalties and had to write a five-figure check (massive ugh). Then we overcompensated (I adjusted my withholding right after we filed, DH paid quarterly estimated taxes, and then in December I forgot we had done that and so also jacked up the withholding on my end-of-year), so we got a five-figure refund (on the plus side, that explained why the budget felt ridiculously tight that year). This year we at least had the refund down to four figures. And strangely enough, through this whole time we have always been almost right on with the state taxes. Our more typical year is maybe $1K back from the feds and owe maybe $200 to the state.

    I am just glad it’s done. We still do TurboTax, which seems to work reasonably enough — basically W2s and 1099s, and our rental agent in Taos prepares an annual summary of costs that we can just plug directly in. Usually DH takes a weekend to plug everything in, and then he and I sit down and go over everything together, confirming the documents and the numbers, etc.

  18. Mooshi, although CoC answered, here’s my take.

    Previously FAFSA submissions began on 1/1 of the calendar year and for the academic year beginning the following August/September and were based on the tax returns that are due e.g. tomorrow. For colleges to prepare FAFSA-based (i.e. need) aid packages for the freshman admits, their cutoffs are well before tomorrow, so a lot of people were “caught” in the timing issue…taxes not done yet, so can’t file FAFSA; can’t file FAFSA so can’t meet the colleges’ reqts for financial aid application.

    Solution: Move the filing period earlier, so now it starts on October 1 and uses the tax return info from the tax year ending the previous 12/31.

    So, when I did my kids’ FAFSAs in the fall for the 2017-2018 academic year, the data were from our calendar 2015 taxes which were filed in spring 2016.

    It does make it easier from a data availablility perspective.

  19. As I kvetched on the other thread, why do people resent paying a CPA to perform a professional service. Many other time consuming tasks are cheerfully outsourced. And mooshi, I have always referred to tax services as a dirty job. Few people change the oil on their car anymore. Govt disposal regs and cheap efficient service are the reasons.

  20. I hated paying my CPA mostly because he (or his employees) were missing things that I had to point out – like state tax deductions for 529 contributions and then one year they suggested we open a Roth IRA when we were over the income threshold. I also would have been more amenable to outsourcing if I hadn’t had to complete this 30 page document that was essentially doing all of the work for them.

  21. “why do people resent paying a CPA to perform a professional service.”

    I’d be happy to. But first I’d have to find one, which is of course the initial huge hurdle (whereas I can download TurboTax instantly). And, honestly, when we did use a CPA in DC, it didn’t seem to save much time — we still had to gather everything, then answer questions, then walk through it with him and double-check the paperwork. Especially now that everything is in TurboTax, the pain of DIY just isn’t significant enough to push us to an expert. Oh: and, if I am going to get on someone’s schedule, I really need to get organized in February when the forms start piling in; my natural tendency towards procrastination is much better-suited to TurboTax. Also, “resent” is too strong a word — it’s more that I didn’t see the value in it at that point in our lives (I paid @$700 for basically the same result I got from Turbo Tax for $50).

    Now, if we had a shoebox of medical or business receipts to wade through, that would be a different story.

  22. “30 page document that was essentially doing all of the work for them”

    We do not complete the form our CPA gives us.* I figure because of that we’re probably testing the limits of our friendship with him and adding several hundred dollars to the fee we pay.

    * See previous references to avoidance and procrastination, and add in laziness.

  23. Our CPA doesn’t make us fill in anything. He just takes our file of backup documents and prepares the return. If we are missing any information that would normally be there, he checks in with us.

  24. We don’t fill out much of anything for the CPA. We just gather all the documents (and scan them just in case) and mail them to the CPA, usually at the last possible second.

  25. Cautionary tale – Stopped by a local bank where we keep a savings account that is not linked to any other account and where we have a safe deposit box. I wanted to check if I needed to pay them for the box rental before we leave this Saturday, The women put in our name but couldn’t find any box in our name. I didn’t know the number and had to go home to get it. Called her and she still couldn’t find it. She called the “back” office and they said to come in, bring the key and we’ll open the box, I was a wreck the whole time waiting for her to keep checking and getting back to me. I thought my husband would go ballistic but he just laughed and said we had a listing of the contents and would be able to get an evaluation – not to worry. We went the next morning and everything was there. I was so relieved. We had to sign up again and get our daughter to come in and sign on again. Apparently, the guy who did the paperwork never processed it properly and the paperwork just disappeared. I don’t know how they accepted payment for it last year. Because the contents aren’t needed until we decide to sell (old coins) I don’t go into that box. Check and make sure your safety deposit box is linked to your name.

  26. We have a CPA complete our taxes. DH’s brother used to do them for us for free, but when we had a business/family blow up on my side, we set a strict separation of financial affairs and family policy for both sides and hired someone local to do it. The only complicated thing we have is the schedule F. The depreciation alchemy they do on our little farm scares me and I’d rather pay someone else to put their name next to the relatively big negative number they come up with every year.

    Usually we get maybe $1K back from the feds and oue the state a couple hundred. This year, we’re getting a significantly larger return – presumably because income was down and exemptions we up from last year’s baby. The good news is that with the unexpected extra few thousand, building the back deck is back on the summer agenda.

  27. Okay, I’ll bite. Here is what I do for my own tax return, which takes me a few hours in front of Turbo tax.

    During the year I have a paper file folder in my storage bin. Into that file goes every charity receipt as they come in the mail. I have some business deductions, and property tax bills, and I toss those receipts in the same file, but they could go into separate ones if I were better organized. There are no other receipts that matter for an ordinary tax filer. I also save a pdf of any electronic relevant receipts to my tax folder on the desktop, or email receipts to a folder on my email program. There are very few paper checks any more, but I do have a check register. No quicken. Quite a bit of redundancy. After year end, I take the same paper folder and toss every year end form in as it arrives. I print out my credit card summary when they give it to me in late January and highlight a lot of the same items, just in case. I wait until my brokerage firm has provided the final summary in electronic form, usually mid march.

    Then I sit down with the computer and the file folder. I cross check with the electronic files and check book (there is always one charity that I find that way). Turbo tax carries over most information. I download w-2 (I still have one for deferred items) and the brokerage stuff. I manually enter everything else. I run the error check, then fill in the state, run the error check, and wait a couple of days before doing the common sense top level review. If there is a possibility of IRA deduction, I evaluate. Then I pay the state filing fee, hit the button, and file everything.

    Most of you could do this yourself, if you don’t own limited pships, complex investments, claim a lot of energy credits or run a side business with special rules. The key is the advance organization. All you need is one file folder, and a computer!! And enough sense to know what to throw into the folder. I have a separate folder for the doctor bill, copay and prescription, not to claim a deduction, but just in case I have to prove my HSA payments. As for estimated payments, you can always just meet the safe harbors for prior years. If you are underpaid, you have to come up with the cash. If you are overpaid, refund or roll over to next year.

  28. I sign the papers my DH puts in front of me. He even has those cool “sign here” post it notes. I scan over the documents, too – for about 15 seconds. We have a tax preparer, but we (I mean DH) do a lot of work to get all the documentation together. Rental property pushed us into professional tax return land – it seems complicated to account for depreciation, etc.

    The other thing I do in regards to taxes is tolerate DH being locked in the office a few Saturdays in March.

  29. As I kvetched on the other thread, why do people resent paying a CPA to perform a professional service. Many other time consuming tasks are cheerfully outsourced. And mooshi, I have always referred to tax services as a dirty job. Few people change the oil on their car anymore. Govt disposal regs and cheap efficient service are the reasons.

    I didn’t mind paying our accountant but I felt she became too expensive ($350 this year), and she kept increasing the amount of “organization” she wanted us to do before bringing the stuff in. She wanted us to essentially list out all of our deductions. At that point, it’s an extra 5-10 minutes to enter it all in turbo tax myself. Not worth what she is charging.

    For outsourcing anything, it comes down to “how hard is this to do myself compared to what it would cost to pay someone else”. For our taxes, the cost got to the point where it’s easier to do it myself.

  30. RMS – your return may contain a schedule that cannot be filed electronically. That is why our accountant paper files for us.

  31. So mooshi, the disdain is not a question of the vulgarity of money matters, just the fact that the it ranks below every other maintenance activity in the value of time and attention. So we blame the irs, or the cpas for our own choices. Kind of like blaming Toyota or the mechanic for car hassles if we don’t remember to fill the tires of maintain the car.

  32. We pain 5-figures in sales tax this year on home renovations. I am not sure that we would have caught that we needed to deduct that if not for the accountant. So, it’s worth the $ for us.

  33. We have a folder labeled “tax crap” and everything goes in there. Then we bring it to our financial planner who does our taxes. We have a great conversation on our financial goals, retirement, child care expenses,etc. I pay him about $150 for all this. But we have an easy return. Thanks to him I feel confident about our financial choices over the years.

    We got back about $5500 this year. Not sure what 2017 taxes will bring because of the new baby and reduced income. I may alter our withholding next year. I’ll probably do that by opening a FSA for daycare. It will give us more tax savings than deducting the approved expenses.

    Could I do this myself? Sure. But why?? I have enough going on.

  34. Extension filed. 1Q paid. Once I get one last K-1, I will submit everything to our accountant. DH usually does this, but he is slammed at work, so I will pick up the mantle.

  35. 1. Taxes – I started using a CPA when my ex was earning wages and running two different side businesses. He would procrastinate until the last minute to get me any information. The second year, I said…nope, not me. Amazingly, he got her the information timely! Well worth it then! Right about the time our divorce was final, a relative died and my mom and I were joint owners of a house we fixed up and rented out. Stayed with a CPA. Three years ago, decided that since my partner (file separately) was using turbo tax, I would put mine in there as soon as I got them back from the CPA to see if it was hard/easy and how close they came out. I was sold on doing it myself the next year, but then my dad passed and it was a time issue, then my mom passed and new trusts have been created and old ones dissolved. Next year will still be a bit muddled as not everything could be transferred before 12/31. So, still with a CPA. Tax year 2018 will be the first one that is the “new normal”.

    2. Sheep – Yes, she is applying for Frontiers. Just not sure if she can to that and the internship as they overlap and Frontiers is technically our backup. If she gets the intership, we will see if it is possible to do both based on their flexibility.

  36. meme, why would I blame the CPA? I am thankful that we can dump all our stuff on the CPA. She does a better job than many other service providers. I am not getting why you think I am disdainful.

  37. “For outsourcing anything, it comes down to “how hard is this to do myself compared to what it would cost to pay someone else”.”

    Yes. I don’t find doing my taxes to be particularly hard or time-consuming. Since we transitioned out of doing nanny taxes, it takes me less than an hour over a cup of coffee on a cold February morning. Considerably less time & effort than to clean my house or to change the oil in my car. Like I said – we have pretty run-of-the-mill taxes, but so do millions of people. The paperwork we need is pretty much what Meme outlined – and I save PDF’s of those statements in my Taxes folder on my computer throughout the year, along with updating my running spreadsheet of charitable contributions.

    I have a lot of respect for CPA’s. I just don’t think I need one.

  38. why do people resent paying a CPA to perform a professional service.

    One of my fellow consultants pays a book keeper to prepare his expense reports. Every Saturday he drives over and drops off his receipts. I use expensify and that does most of the work. It’s the same with turbotax. Why pay someone to do something that a computer can do easier and better?

  39. RMS – your return may contain a schedule that cannot be filed electronically. That is why our accountant paper files for us.

    Oh, interesting thought. Perhaps so. There are all these weird forms about DH’s share of the income from the offices in the other states, and there’s some firm-wide agreement about how to handle those, and maybe that’s not something that can be filed electronically.

  40. My son is home with a fever again! He misses far too much school this way, and it seems to be somehow linked to the depression. I’m starting to worry about what’s going on. None of his docs seem to think it’s their job to figure out why something as “harmless” as a fever keeps coming back so often.

  41. Mémé,

    In our household, it’s not like we’re outsourcing a bunch of other stuff either. No cleaners, no yard people, even replacing doors / toilets / electrical fixtures / fridge icemaker we do ourselves. Oil changes are indeed outsourced, and most vehicle maintenance, although smaller things for vehicles-no-longer-under-warranty we’ve done ourselves. But on the whole, doing the taxes via TurboTax is consistent with our usual habits, not an exception.

  42. “Now, if we had a shoebox of medical or business receipts to wade through, that would be a different story.”
    What do people do for college kids’ taxes? I scarcely understood what cap gains were at that point, so my parents had mine done with theirs. After I graduated, I did my own–it was much simpler then!

  43. S&M – Does your state have a requirement about how many days can be missed before he must start making the time up in order to pass for the year? My state now says if you do not attend 90% of your classes (not days, but classes) when they meet, you must make up those hours in Saturday school or by attending summer school.

    I bring this up because if your son is missing enough school to trigger this type of provision, it becomes a REAL reason to figure out what might require summer school.

  44. What do people do for college kids’ taxes?

    Can’t most kids be kept on their parents’ taxes, since they’re still dependents? Then in grad school I could do the 1040EZ, and I think DSS could too.

  45. OK, I was already on the bad list with the bus stop moms, but now I really am. The perfectly nice Mormon lady who lives next to us, and who is a main person in the bus stop moms posse, handed out a survey for a friend of hers to all the HS students walking home, including my 11th grader. I took a look at it – it was clearly a survey being done as part of a college class, but the informed consent paperwork was completely wrong – it was for a survey of science teachers, not HS kids. And there was no contact name/number or college letterhead. Now, I do these surveys myself – am in the midst of a project right now that involves surveying students and working professionals on a particular topic – so I know that you have to get approval from the Institutional Review Board. To get that , you have to submit a copy of your informed consent letter and it has to match the study protocols. Furthermore, kids under 18 are supposed to have special protections and the parent is supposed to sign. So a survey “for a friend” at an unnamed college with a mismatching informed consent (plus it was stapled to the survey – you are not supposed to do that because the data must be anonymous and a signed survey would obviously negate that) – nope, not having my kid fill it out. I should have just conveniently lost it, but I went out, showed it to the mom, and explained why it was problematic. Her response : “Oh you New Yorkers, I’m from the West, we don’t worry about things like that in the West”. Um, yes, they do, this is a national standard, and my colleagues at schools out west have to jump through the same procedural hoops.

    So yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, should have just said nothing and “lost” the survey.

  46. Can’t most kids be kept on their parents’ taxes, since they’re still dependents?

    Kept on their parents taxes as in their W-2s just get included with their parents W-2s?

  47. I had to start filing 1040-EZ even while I was still a dependent on my parents’ returns, which meant I missed out on my deduction, as I recall.

  48. MM,

    If the project is to be used in classroom setting only to teach research methods, the project may not constitute human participant research. However, this means that at no point during or after the conclusion of the course can the results or the data be used for publication, presentation or other research purposes.

    Was it not that kind of survey?

    https://www.irb.cornell.edu/faq/#gq6

  49. SM – have you tried alternatives like acupuncture? Going back to the home country wisdom, there is often a link between mind and body. The stresses of the mind impact the body which manifests itself in various illnesses.

  50. We switched accountants this year and have a *giant* bill – our estimates were too low and our other accountant was mis-counting some of DH’s income, we think. :( We have LP interests, plus DH has several LLCs and other companies, and we have nanny taxes (done by the nanny tax people), so it is pretty complicated.

  51. My accountant does DD’s and DS’s taxes. I’ve told them when they start their first job, I’m turning it over to them and they can do their own, or pay my accountant to continue to do it for them.

  52. “Oh you New Yorkers, I’m from the West, we don’t worry about things like that in the West”.

    Yes we do.

  53. “Then in grad school I could do the 1040EZ, and I think DSS could too.”

    Yeah, or even if you are very Totebaggy & putting a 14 year old’s earnings in an IRA, you could use the 1040A. I’m pretty sure that I used one or the other until I was 30 (minus the stint working abroad when my company paid someone to handle my taxes). But again – I was a pretty normal middle-class kid/20-something. No major investments in my name or or anything like that.

  54. it was clearly a survey being done as part of a college class,

    Then it doesn’t qualify as human participant research, right?

  55. As I recall, I did the 1040EZ as a high-school- and college-aged dependent — just had to check yes for the the ‘can anyone claim you as a dependent’ box — and only finally switched to the 1040A when a fellow associate (who also was qualified as a CPA) pointed out to a couple of us that the state-taxes-paid deduction was actually greater than the automatic deduction.

  56. Rhett, according to our IRB, yes it does. Usually it gets a status of “exempt” as long as certain conditions are met. But one of those conditions is that an informed consent form that MATCHES the survey and the participants be filed, and then signed by the participants. That was not the case here.

  57. MM, your problem was the mismatch between who you were dealing with — not the survey author but just someone passing it along as a favor for a friend — and the information you were trying to convey — errors the survey author should be aware of and that may invalidate her results but not anything the favor-for-a-friend lady would know about or be in a position to fix. And given the lack of contact information, you couldn’t pass on your concerns to the actual author.

    So, yeah, you should have just lost the survey ;-).

  58. When I was in college, I took a couple of research classes where we recruited fellow students. We had to provide an informed consent form like MM describes. It was one of MANY checkboxes that had to be covered with the Ethics committee when conducting any survey or experiment.

  59. It is supposed to be universal, but some schools have stricter IRBs than others. But that is only at the margins.

    This is from a university website from a school not mine, but it looks pretty similar. Note that if under 18 subjects are used, the research always requires IRB approval even if it is just a class project
    http://www.loyola.edu/department/orsp/irb/faq#1b

  60. Ivy – and the informed consent had to actually MATCH the survey, right? And you weren’t dealing with minors. Those things were concerning to me. The informed consent was for a survey of science teachers, not high school students!!

  61. I surveyed the student body about some issues in college (related to student fees) but did not get informed consent, nor did I consult an IRB. The results might have been published in a student newspaper. It was for student government and we didn’t get college credit for participation. If I had gotten credit for that work should I have gotten consent? When does a survey become research?

    I’m not being flip. I’m sincerely curious – I’ve done my best to stay very far away from research.

  62. Ada, your subjects were probably not minors, so that is very important. Beyond that, I don’t know. Perhaps because it wasn’t under the auspices of a professor? I agree that informal surveys like that are done all the time, and I don’t know where the line is drawn.

  63. Ada, I looked at a few university sites, and some mention journalism projects as not normally requiring IRB approval.

  64. “Ivy – and the informed consent had to actually MATCH the survey, right? ”

    Uh, yeah! :) The process and the current website documentation for my alma mater is pretty close to what you linked to for Loyola Maryland. I just looked it up to see if it was the same as when I was there in the 90’s. It is – just more electronic. Having subjects sign the wrong form would be a MAJOR issue with the professor, the IRB, and the overall Ethics committee.

    We definitely had to jump through all the hoops for the research projects and surveys that I did.

    I wonder if the forms from my college work are still stuffed in a file cabinet somewhere.

  65. I would say that someone sending out a Survey Monkey about how they feel about the cafeteria options is probably not “research”, but I don’t know where the line is. I was doing research in the context of social science classes, and so I think it was appropriate to make us adhere to strict documented procedures.

  66. Note that if under 18 subjects are used, the research always requires IRB approval even if it is just a class project

    Always?

    Children/Minors (under the age of 18) (Exception – projects conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings involving normal educational practices. Contact IRB office for guidance.)

  67. If the research is being performed by an institution that receives federal funds, and if it constitutes human subject research, then the rules regarding informed consent, etc. apply.

    Lots of surveys do not rise to the level of human subject research, but many do.

    Still agree Mooshi you probably should have just ‘lost’ the form. :P

  68. “Now, if we had a shoebox of medical or business receipts to wade through, that would be a different story.”

    The floors for medical and business deductions based on %age of income has rendered this moot for us in most years, especially since we have flexible spending accounts from which we get reimbursed for most of our medical expenses.

    As mentioned here in a previous discussion, a great deal of tax simplification could be achieved by raising the standard deduction. The creation of these floors has similarly achieved a great deal of simplification, and increased the amount of taxes collected, with little fanfare or controversy.

  69. “Can’t most kids be kept on their parents’ taxes, since they’re still dependents?”

    How do other totebaggers handle their kids’ income? I’ve been filing separate returns for my kids.

    “Kept on their parents taxes as in their W-2s just get included with their parents W-2s?”

    I don’t think that’s how it works. If you include your child’s income on your return, I believe you report it on form 8814.

  70. Yeah, I could be totally wrong about the kids’ taxes, and I probably am. I am probably mis-remembering from decades ago, and my stepson’s taxes were always dealt with by him and his mother.

  71. Most college kids can use turbotax for free. College DS did his own returns last year under my supervision. This year, he forgot that we were going to be in Australia on D day so he is on his own. His only complication was that he had TWO W-2s.
    I’ve always done our returns, even nanny taxes by hand BITD, and now Turbo tax makes it very easy. I follow the Meme method and we don’t have any complicated sources of income or deductions. The state tax credit for 529s and contributions to private school scholarships is not particularly intuitive, but if we used an accountant we would still have to provide the critical code to enter on the return so outsourcing wouldn’t be worth the professional fee.
    The reason for this year’s late filing date is that April 17 is Emancipation Day in DC.

  72. Scarlett and SSK, I hope when you guys return you will post a full report of your trips.

  73. “I had to start filing 1040-EZ even while I was still a dependent on my parents’ returns, which meant I missed out on my deduction, as I recall.”

    I’m guessing that you’re thinking of your exemption, not your deduction. And your family didn’t necessarily miss out on your exemption; while you may not have claimed it, your parents may have claimed it.

    Your exemption can only be claimed once, so if your parents claimed it (and it was likely more valuable to them), then you couldn’t also claim it.

  74. f you include your child’s income on your return, I believe you report it on form 8814.

    That’s interest and dividends not W-2 income.

  75. Lark – I will! We leave tomorrow, and are pretty much ready to go home. Again, I really wish I could apparate back to the US like Harry Potter!

  76. Finn, you’re almost certainly right. I remember that at the time, I had to be a dependent on my parents’ tax return to qualify under my Dad’s medical insurance, so even though our marginal rates were the same, I benefitted from his insurance.

  77. My 22-y.o. DS, in his first year of graduate school, was claimed as a dependent on our return. (This is the last year we can do this, as he became self-supporting after graduation.) He did his own return which included both W2 income from his last year of college and non-W2 fellowship income from his grad school.

    We ran the taxes both ways; if we claimed him, we saved $1000 but he owed $400. If we didn’t, we paid $1000 more and he paid almost nothing. So we claimed him and gave him $400 of the $1000 we saved.

  78. My dad opened an UTMA for DD and he sold one stock so she had a profit this year. She owed taxes because she is taxed at our tax rate. I think it is unfair, but that is the way it works since she is claimed as a dependent on our return.

    This is the first year that we could have really done our own returns without an accountant since we finally had no partnerships. DH found mistakes that our accountant made this year, but we still find it easier to outsource the actual paperwork even though we do a lot of the prep work. The accountant charges us much less than some of our friends and family because we don’t hand him a “shoebox” of paper. We pay $450, but my uncle pays the same firm $1000 because his taxes are more complicated.

  79. Lauren, did you include your DD’s income in your return with an 8814?

    You might want to compare which way your total taxes would be lower– including it in your return with an 8814, or filing a return for her.

    The main reason I filed returns for my kids all these years is that the total tax bill was lower that way. I haven’t done this in several years, but I used to do it both ways to see which way would be less. I also used to compare filing joint vs separate for DW and me; TurboTax makes this pretty easy.

    BTW, only income above $2100 should be taxed at your rate.

    https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc553.html

  80. Finn, this was the first year that she was taxed at our rate. It was due to one stock sale in this account. She doesn’t have any other income since she is too young to work, and her savings account generates very little interest income. It is still a very minor amount, and I don’t expect her to have any actual income since she is too young to work except for some mother’s helper stuff.

  81. Ugh, we keep swimming deeper into the AMT and as a result had to write a big check this year, the five figure variety. Watching our itemized deductions disappear is painful. On top of that, we live in one state and work in another. Somehow I didn’t notice that my employer stopped withholding for my resident state. So, we have to write another, albeit much smaller check, to one of the states.

    We do our own taxes using turbo tax. I am an accountant by degree but it is not what I actually do anymore. Our taxes are almost embarrassingly uncomplicated. I wonder if that leads people to do them on their own – beyond having to reveal everything about our income, I would also have to admit that we don’t have any very sophisticated financial arrangements. We make enough that I wonder if we are an oddity at this level of income.

  82. “We make enough that I wonder if we are an oddity at this level of income.”

    FWIW, I doubt it. Most employed professionals generally start with W2 income and capital gains. The tax rates are such that you can hit AMT pretty easily on two professional incomes.

    We are so boring that we are no longer even AMT, because once we refi’d to the 15-year our total deductions are low enough that the regular tax table is higher. Our only complication is the rental income, but TT walks you through that step by step, and like I said above, our property manager sends us an itemized list of expenses. I think start to finish it was less than a day for us, and probably two hours of that was going through the papers and checking account and CC statements to remember all the various little charity things and documenting the childcare expenses (for the credit that we didn’t get anyway — DK why TT sends us through that since it is covered by a Dependent Care account).

  83. We always have to spend a bunch of time with the accountants over email/phone to talk them through all of DH’s different entities and sources of income…this year was worse since we switched. We also had to switch business banks halfway through 2016 since BoA kicked all of DH’s businesses out, and that was a huge PITA since not all of the electronic statements were available and the ones that were were not downloadable into excel as we used to do. So going forward we have to make our own spreadsheets for accounting purposes – guess who gets to do that? :-P

  84. Our taxes are pretty uncomplicated too. I think they took me an hour and I didn’t even have the benefit this year of transferring the info over from last year’s return because I did it on our old computer which died. I import the W-2s, import the taxable account stuff and keep all of our charitable receipts in a folder on my desk (and we give the bulk of our charitable dollars to DD’s school and our alma mater so the other gifts are not huge).

  85. Totally random vent: People who post public messages on Nextdoor and other forums to tell someone they sent them a private message.

  86. I would also have to admit that we don’t have any very sophisticated financial arrangements. We make enough that I wonder if we are an oddity at this level of income.

    Are there really any sophisticated options available for those with totebag level incomes and net worth? I mean I know there are options but aren’t most just thinly veiled scams? Or, if not scams, then ideas like buying a commercial building with some friends and family that are still highly inadvisable.

  87. “sophisticated financial arrangements”

    Sophisticated investment options like real estate or partnerships are not necessarily scams, but they can be. But other sophisticated financial arrangements that I’ve seen mentioned here are things like income from various states and/or sources having to do with your line of work or the way your employer structures your compensation. A tax professional can be a help in those situations.

    I haven’t had a chance to check it out but I expect to see this site linked in future discussions here.

    Steve Ballmer puts the entire government in a spreadsheet
    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/17/steve-ballmer-puts-the-entire-government-in-a-spreadsheet.html

  88. Denver – I haven’t seen those messages on NextDoor but that thing is a source of constant amusement for me and DH. The topics discussed and the “warnings” given are hilarious.

  89. BoA kicked all of DH’s businesses out

    BOA kicked me out but not DH. Our accounts there were joint. We moved our money.

  90. Risley — yesterday on the Santa Cruz Nextdoor someone posted “Be on the lookout for a green suburban with several men inside I saw a tattoo on an arm they looked suspicious”. Is it the tattoo or the green Suburban that prompted you to post?

  91. SM – I forgot one important point in my comment. Exercise. Make sure there is an hour for exercise every day, even if your DS is not feeling up to it. It helps. Just getting out of the house and to a gym, running, biking outside helps.

  92. I wish we had Nextdoor

    I can’t believe you don’t! Why don’t you?

  93. RMS – no idea, they never explained it. I really miss being able to transfer funds between the businesses seamlessly (one business used the other for data services, etc., and another business has quarterly comp for DH, etc.) – now things are scattered and everything is delayed by a week or so if you need to move money around.

  94. “’Be on the lookout for a green suburban with several men inside I saw a tattoo on an arm they looked suspicious’. Is it the tattoo or the green Suburban that prompted you to post?”

    @Rocky: Well, clearly, it was the arm. I assume it was some variant of brown, and therefore looked suspicious.

  95. Well, clearly, it was the arm. I assume it was some variant of brown, and therefore looked suspicious.

    Sigh. That is probably it. Although now that I think about it, if the arm was detached and dangling out the window, that would be suspicious too.

  96. RMS / LfB – y’all need to get with HM on this. I feel a long, hilarious tale coming on. Surely pirates will be involved.

  97. “documenting the childcare expenses (for the credit that we didn’t get anyway — DK why TT sends us through that since it is covered by a Dependent Care account).”

    I find that irritating as well. TT has the data at the point in the process to know that I’m not going to qualify for the credit.

    Even with my parents claiming me as a dependent, I don’t think I even paid Fed income taxes until I was a senior in college and had a FT paid internship over the summer. I never made enough money — I had PT minimum wage jobs and a small savings account. In 1992, I made about $4/hour and worked maybe 15 hours/week on average. Plus cash for babysitting that I wouldn’t have claimed. I’m pretty sure that ended up being under the standard deduction.

  98. @RMS – We get that too. There was a rash of UPS package thefts around the holidays that led to some questionable posts in the name of justice.

    Nextdoor post: A saw a man walking down X street. He was wearing a Bulls jacket, so I watched him. He didn’t take any packages, and he wasn’t carrying anything, so I didn’t call the police. BE VIGILANT!”

    I’m pretty sure that I know what “Bulls jacket” is a stand-in for.

  99. I’m pretty sure that ended up being under the standard deduction.

    IIRC, you don’t get the standard deduction if you’re parents are claiming you as a dependent.

    Plus cash for babysitting that I wouldn’t have claimed.

    Still in high school and engaging in felony tax evasion?

  100. Totally random vent: People who post public messages on Nextdoor and other forums to tell someone they sent them a private message.

    Worse are the people who make mistakes on facebook and then write a new reply to explain their typos. “Sorry! I meant u can’t every be 2 sure about green suburbans not brown suburbans. lol.”

    When is it appropriate to provide education about how to edit a facebook post???

  101. I love Nextdoor for all the wackiness it entails.

    We have almost no wackiness. It’s all people requesting referrals for home repairs. The only wackiness I’ve seen is someone trying to figure out how to prevent their neighbors from doing a renovation because of the noise.

  102. “IIRC, you don’t get the standard deduction if you’re parents are claiming you as a dependent.”

    I’m pretty sure you get a standard deduction, just not the personal exemption. It might have changed since the 90’s too. I am positive that most years I filed a return but was exempt because I never made more than about $3000-4000 (minus the felony tax evasion). Gotta squeeze all you can out of HS/college kids. Losers living in their parent’s basements. ;)

  103. My favorite posts are usually the ones about schools. It starts of innocently enough – don’t make an illegal u-turn at drop-off, and then turns into 45+ comments about how the school and the school board are failing at keeping our kids safe.

    You really learn a lot about your fellow neighbors – which ones like to complain about everything, which ones are super cheap and will try to sell ugly lamps for $75, etc. We also have our share of dogs on the loose, coyotes sightings, otter sightings, and suspicious cars.

  104. Lemon – I haven’t changed my Nextdoor address since we moved, so I don’t look at it anymore. However, you have just inspired me.

  105. “I wish we had Nextdoor”

    “I can’t believe you don’t! Why don’t you?”

    Not sure. When I check it says I’m not within a Nextdoor neighborhood and it invites me to start one. Maybe we’re an un-neighborly area. Also, I’m located in a slice of my village that’s in between two well-defined neighborhoods so maybe that’s a factor.

  106. CoC, we have a FB group for our town – “OurTown Moms & Dads”, as well as the ever-popular “OurTown Kids”. OK, both are parentally focused but go way beyond that. I think that may suck up the need for Nextdoor

  107. Louise, thanks! There is almost certainly something going on via that connection–that’s why I want him to get back into yoga. I hadn’t thought of acupuncture.

    MM, isn’t there a distinction between a student doing a survey as part of a course in which they learn to do surveys (in which case the kid did a bad job on this assignment) and a survey done to collect research for a class in some other discipline? The latter sounds like a grey area to me. New research done in capstone courses and grad school may well result in publication (even if that is not the intent at the outset), so should have IRB review. Research done for lower level classes is like having kids run a well-known experiment in science class, and doesn’t require the IRB. Most IRBs are terribly backed up as it is. Having them review every dinky practice run would make that much, much worse.

  108. On taxes in college–my parents probably could’ve kept me on their returns, but I think it worked better for the overall taxes to have separate taxes filed for me, after they’d given me investments before selling them off. I don’t remember exactly when Reagan’s tax reforms started, but having someone in a lower income bracket deal with cap gains, etc. was helpful.

  109. Mooshi, you offered that feedback because you want the neighbor’s friend’s kid to do well in class, right? That’s probably the best angle to work at this point. Ask the busstop neighbor a follow-up question about how the kid did on the assignment/if your comments had helped.

    Totally random vent: People who post public messages on Nextdoor and other forums to tell someone they sent them a private message.
    DD, does it bug you when people do that on here?

  110. “Research done for lower level classes is like having kids run a well-known experiment in science class, and doesn’t require the IRB. ”

    Personally, I think part of the point is learning how the process works and following it correctly before you get to the high-level classes where it may potentially matter for publication or presentation outside of class. Or to prep for grad school. At least that seemed to be the theory when I was in college. But I went to a LAC without a grad school, so maybe it’s different at a R-1.

  111. Ivy, that’s a fair point. Even if they don’t actually add to the IRB’s workload, students in lower-level classes can/should be required to set things up just right, as if they were going through the whole process. Faculty can do mock IRBs for each other’s students.

  112. My favorite Nextdoor posts are the ones complaining about people who let their cats roam outside, because the cats kill songbirds and rabbits. The cat people get angry back. I live in a hipster-ish area. Those posts can go on forever. They are pretty funny because the people aren’t trying to be funny.

  113. We have a neighborhood watch weekly email, rather than a board or a list. You can send in items to the coordinator. A recent example:

    Just want to let all of you know that 3 of my neighbors plus myself saw a suspicious lady on our property in XXXX area and she parked her car in one of our neighbors stall.
    The lady is a possible suspect that stole my black plastic garden pots as well as my green hanging basket pot that I had outside the shed in plastic bags.
    Also 3 unopened green wired clotheslines were also taken. Can’t remember what else were taken, but I know that she stole it.
    I confronted the female which she was possibly on drugs, according to my neighbors.
    But anyways I ask the lady ” Did you take anything?”
    She replied “No” So then what made it suspicious was that the lady was trying to close the back passenger door on the left side of the car.
    She told my neighbors and myself that she will leave once she gets her door to close.
    But couldn’t close the door because she had all kinds of junks in the back seat of the car, which could also be stolen stuff.
    According to one of my neighbors told me that after the lady was pau talking to me, she heard the lady talking to someone in the back seat.
    Couldn’t see if there were anyone in the back because all you could see is junks. So I took the license plate down and the description of the vehicle.

  114. “I’m pretty sure you get a standard deduction, just not the personal exemption.”

    The standard deduction for dependents is also not the same as the standard deduction for non-dependents.

    “The standard deduction for an individual who can be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return is generally limited to the greater of: $1,050, or. The individual’s earned income for the year plus $350 (but not more than the regular standard deduction amount, generally $6,300).”

  115. S&M, it doesn’t bother me here because i know a lot of people have set up specific email accounts just to talk to others here so they probably don’t check them regularly.

  116. I must see if there is Nextdoor for my neighborhood. My neighborhood had its own email list at one point but there has been a lot of change since then.

  117. For anyone who wants to watch Merrie Monarch, which is coming up this week, here’s the info for watching the online feed:

    WATCH ON KFVE-TV

    >> Live coverage at 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with encores at 11 a.m. the following day; live streaming available at kfve.com.
    >> Today: Best of Merrie Monarch Festival 2015 airs at 7 p.m. and Best of Merrie Monarch 2016 at 8 p.m.

    Thursday is Miss Aloha Hula, Friday is kahiko, and Saturday is auana and announcement of winners.

  118. “Those are Hawaii times, so add 3 to 6 hours depending on your time zone.”

    If you’re outside the US (e.g., Australia), the time difference may be different.

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