Paying the Tax Man – And the Postman

Pejman Yousefzadeh guest blogger “joebwan” offers some sage advice for last-minute tax filers:

Now isn’t the time to cheap out. Unless you are filing electronically, you ought to spring for the extra $4.25 to file your return “certified mail, return receipt requested.” It’s well worth the time and trouble of going to the post office to get that postmarked receipt. The tax law is full of sad stories of taxpayers who lost thousands of dollars because they didn’t have a postmark to document that they filed on time. Don’t let it happen to you!

Yup. I spent 35 minutes in line at the local post office this morning doing precisely that. An extra ten bucks mailing in the state and federal return, added to a few hundred for the accountant, just makes tax season a little more special.

We waited to mail in our returns until the last minute because it went with a sizable check, a result of my having been self-employed the last half of the year and not withholding enough. (Thankfully, it was well within allowable margins, so it didn’t come with penalties.) I suspect people would like paying taxes even less than they do if they had to mail a check at the end of the year. Under the current system, most people get refunds of money they overpaid throughout the year and think they’re getting a late Christmas present from the Uncle Sam.

While we pay an inordinate percentage of our income in taxes, I ultimately don’t mind it all that much. While the burden could certainly be lowered if all the spending I considered wasteful were eliminated, running a continental superpower is expensive and paying for that is a duty of citizenship. I actually find the burden of record keeping and filing more annoying than the taxes themselves.

UPDATE: Matt Stoler independently expresses almost the identical sentiment as my last paragraph. Oddly, he does so to demonstrate how superior he is to “unpatriotic,” “embittered,” “childish and immoral,” conservatives who “hate democracy.”

Surely, the percentage of American conservatives who fit those descriptions is no larger than that of liberals who do. No doubt, similar adjectives are used by the Ann Coulter types to pander to the sense of moral superiority of their base and code worded variants are used by politicians and others to throw red meat to partisan crowds. But why is this sort of nonsense so prevalent among the responsible commentariat?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark says:

    Did you catch the article in the Post this morning on how most Northern Virginia governments are not even going to bother looking at cutting spending, and instead have simply decided to raise our taxes even more?

    More good news!


  2. John Burgess says:

    I got my return in weeks before the deadline, but watched to see when my check was posted. That was several days ago, so no panic was necessary.

    After taking the whack for self-employment taxes, I was happy to save the four bucks. It’s at least another pound of good coffee!

  3. James Joyner says:

    The check owed was such that we likely earned more than $4 in interest by delaying. Still, moving out W-4, W-2, 1099 world is interesting.

  4. Jeff Q. says:

    Got a surprising amount back, not as a result of screwing up anything though. First time filing married and the student credits I got coupled with our income level got us a decent check to put into the savings account.

    I filed taxes (and my FAFSA) in early February since the priority deadline for financial aid here was Feb. 14.

  5. TJIT says:

    James you said,

    running a continental superpower is expensive and paying for that is a duty of citizenship.

    I suspect more tax money is spent on entitlements then on being a continental superpower. According to the article linked below about sixty percent of current spending is to entitlements and payments to individuals, twenty percent is for national defense.

    The Stubborn Welfare State

    Somehow providing providing tax money to ADM to make ethanol and providing tax money to senior citizens to by viagra does not seem to be spending related to being a continental superpower.

    I think in your attempts to be reasonable you miss just how unreasonable much government spending and tax policy is.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Yeah, but hte $4 is still wasted from a social stand point. As is all the time you spent doing your taxes, purchasing computer programs to do your taxes, money spent having others do your taxes etc. All one ginormous waste since it really produces nothing, but merely re-arranges the economic pie, so to speak.

  7. John Burgess says:

    Steve: Well of course it doesn’t! Only in the land of Oz does it work differently, and I don’t mean Australia.

  8. Tano says:

    “While we pay an inordinate percentage of our income in taxes…”

    In what sense is it inordinate?