I Love Tax Season (and Why It's Like Christmas)

by Elizabeth Lang on 12 March 2009 14 comments
Photo: zyphbear

I have a confession to make: I love tax season.  Not just the days when I do my taxes or file my taxes or get a chunk of change deposited to my account, but the entire Tax Season: from beginning of January when you're allowed to start filing until April 15, the big due date.

Turns out I'm not the only one who loves tax season.  Surprisingly, Google returns over 700 others who proclaim the exact same thing.

Honestly, I think Tax Season is a lot like the Holiday Season.  Don't believe me?  Check out their similarities:

The Early Birds and the Last Minute Rush

I have an aunt who gets all her Christmas shopping done by Halloween (which is apparently a great night to go shopping because no one is out).  But my brother-in-law runs to Target each year on Christmas Eve to buy presents at the last possible minute.

Yep, during tax season there's that guy in your office who e-filed his taxes the first day the IRS accepted returns.  And we all know how slow the TurboTax website is on April 14th...

A Hot New Toy

Like Tickle Me Elmo or Guitar Hero there's always a particular aspect of tax season that's new, a bit special, and adds a last minute rush to find answers.  This year we've got the first time homebuyers credit and the recovery rebate credit if you didn't get the full stimulus check last year. 

At Least One Surprise

As much as I hate surprises and seek to avoid them, come Christmas morning there's always at least one surprise -- even if it's "the best pancake spatula ever" (thanks, Mom). 

When the final refund or taxes owed number reveals itself on line 76, it's always a little surprising.  Even if you're geeky and run the IRS tax withholding calculator during the year (which you should) you never know what the final dollar amount will be until you've completed your tax forms.  I'm particularly proud of the year I owed $7 to the IRS.  Who manages to withhold their taxes within $7?  I knew I did a good job withholding that year, but the bottom line was still a bit shocking.

Something to Talk About

Come Thanksgiving, the water cooler question becomes "So what are you doing for the holidays this year?"  And during tax season you can make small talk with anyone about taxes.  You know, something like "Yeah, I gotta work on my taxes this weekend." or "Boy, a tax refund this year sure would help."

Everyone Loves to Hate It, But Secretly Loves It

There are so many gripes during the holidays -- visiting in-laws, expensive gifts, holiday office party drama.  But if the holiday season suddenly disappeared you'd miss seeing family, receiving presents, and the gossip induced by the office open bar.

Considering that 70-80% of Americans get a tax refund each year, I'd bet that more people love tax season than are willing to admit to it.

What do you think?

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Guest's picture

I would love tax season more if we had a flat tax. Just imagine how much easier tax filing would be if we all had to pay a flat rate!

Thanks,
Nate

Guest's picture
The Economist

I get what you're saying Elizabeth, but the sad reality is that we really shouldn't be celebrating the fact that for the past year we've overpaid the government, and are finally getting our money back. It's like giving the government a free loan at 0 percent interest. That's not something I celebrate.

What's even more upsetting is that some states like California are withholding refunds. In other words, they've overcharged and they won't give you your money back. That's wrong and to compare that to a holiday seems a little short sighted.

I don't mean to rain on your parade, but I guess I've come to expect articles on this site to carry a bit more insight into personal finance. How about discussing better ways of filing that involve putting your money in a CD vs. the government coffers? Overall there needs to be more education about taxes, and I apologize if I've tried to squeeze that our of this.

Guest's picture
KH

I would rejoice this year if I had overpaid the government!! Given what has happened to my 401K and IRA, a 0% return sounds a lot better than -33%....

Guest's picture
Guest

I understand that since California has passed a budget, refund checks are no longer being withheld. Maybe that's wrong, but that's what accountants here are telling folks.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

No, I absolutely detest tax season.  That might just be because I'm reminded of how much money I paid to support bailouts and such. I really don't see how it is like Christmas at all.  At Christmas time i really enjoy giving gifts to people, but tax season is all about the government sucking you dry.  Sorry to be such a downer, but I find tax season absolutely depressing.

Guest's picture
Celeste

Thanks for the funny article! I never thought about it before, it is a little true! I think I'll do my taxes tonight so I can get that exciting feeling ;)

Myscha Theriault's picture

First of all Elizabeth, welcome to Wise Bread.  Second, while I don't enjoy tax season for the reasons you list, I do like that all kinds of deals are out there trying to lure people into spending their refund. Even those who have the correct amount held back should love a deal, huh? Again, really great to have you on board.

Elizabeth Lang's picture

@ The Economist - You are exactly right that we should not rejoice at overpaying the government and essentially giving them an interest free loan.  (Hence my comment about being excited about underpaying by $7 one year.)  Perhaps a future post will be about how to properly calcuate your IRS withholdings so as to prevent an interest free loan to the government.

@ Celeste - I'm glad you saw that this article was intdended to be a bit funny.  As Myscha pointed out it's my first Wise Bread article, and I hope people realize that personal finance is a very serious subject, it also reveals a lot of insight into our society.

Guest's picture

I know... there are some great benefits and some things to look forward to, but I really just hate it. And then when I get it done, it's such an amazing feeling. AND THEN when I actually get a return, that's exciting too.

This year I won't get too much of one, as I pay myself from my business without setting much aside for taxes.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

yes I think California refunds are supposed to be sent out starting last week. 

Guest's picture

I am going to go against the grain with the other commenter’s and say I love it, however I agree with the first commenter and would love it a whole lot more if it were a fair tax or flat tax. At least then I can choose to pay taxes when I purchase something rather than the current system of being taxed at both ends.

Why do I love it? I get MY money back! Money that was ripped away from me before I even had the chance to hold it. I worked in sales and had my commission checks were taxed at 45%. I cannot change my deductions to a high enough number that would prevent such robbery. It is disheartening to open a pay stub, look at your earnings of $1,000 and see your net pay out of $550. I need to wait 12 months to see a portion of that $550 to be returned to me without interest, but hey it is getting returned and in one lump sum.

Guest's picture
Guest

Because it is a complicated pain in the rear; so complicated it seems that every other Obama nominee can't do theirs correctly (and get off with a slap where heaven help you if you screw up in the same way).

BTW a Goggle search of the terms +I+hate+tax+season

produces 348,000 hits.

Guest's picture

Its a surprise mostly because its so complicated to be understood. So unless it comes right there for you you don't know that it would be coming, even though it was all by the rule book. Btw I love tax season too, for the same reasons. :)

Guest's picture

Great post! I love it in the years I get something back and hate it the other way around . . .

On getting something back, I don't like that I gave the government an interest free loan http://divorceddadfrugaldad.com/2008/08/30/dont-give-the-government-an-i...