Another year of struggle with doing income taxes is past. It is always stressful and wears me out. There’s always some new issue that comes up. This year, both TurboTax and H and R Block, who I’ve used through Free File in the past, have left that program, so I decided to give a go at filling out the forms manually and then submitting the final results through the Free Fillable Forms. I used my forms from previous years as guides to what forms and fields were relevant. I certainly ran into issues, but got it done. It feels good to have it finished, and I feel happier with the results.
I downloaded the forms and instructions to my e-note, and did most of the work on that. My small 8″ e-note was just too small for the lines on the forms and the small text in the instructions, but my 13″ one worked quite well.
The most difficult issue I came across in doing the forms myself was this circular issue with a self employed health insurance deduction and the premium tax credit (PTC) for health insurance. The calculation of one depends on the value of the other through the AGI. The instructions provide a solution for this wherein one must calculate the PTC as if there’s no insurance deduction, then use a new value for the deduction based off that PTC to calculate a new PTC. This is repeated until the difference of both values from one time to the next is less than one dollar. I first ran through this process manually. I messed up part of the process the first time and noticed after 4 iterations. I restarted and after six iterations it became clear that I somehow messed up again. Since it involves switching between 4 forms or worksheets and one chart, which is a pain on the e-note, I just made a spreadsheet with all the fields plus calculations in columns, then made a new row until I got the end result. This only took 5 iterations.
Being self employed and with stocks, I had about 9 forms and several worksheets to fill out. The forms may have gotten a little shorter in the last several years, but then they seem to reference countless other forms and don’t always give a good idea if that form applies to my circumstances. Some forms will have a section with a dozen lines where each one references another form. I downloaded several forms or instructions to see if they were applicable, only to find they weren’t.
This was my first time using Free Fillable Forms, but it was pretty straightforward to get set up. I just created an account on the website and then could pick forms to add and work on. It is sort of like fillable PDFs embedded into a website, but many of the fields are automatically filled in based on other fields, including from other forms. It will do calculations if necessary. There were a number of fields though that should’ve been automatically copied or calculated, but weren’t. It won’t let you fill in those fields, but doesn’t demarcate them, other than with a mouse pointer if you hover over them. It was fairly quick to copy my values from my e-note copies, except that so many of the fields were calculated from other forms that I’d have to start one, then go to another, then continue back on the one.
I didn’t realize that it requires adding some received forms, like W2 and 1099-R, so I had to go back and do that. It does a check before finalizing things where two numbers being different indicate a problem. This made me realize I had to go back and change something, luckily a quick fix.
The Free Fillable Forms does catch some simple errors when filling the forms out and before finalizing, but more complex errors seem to only crop up after submitting and going through some process. I submitted and thought I was done, but then got an email about 40 minutes later about some errors on, of course, the PTC form. The errors are not the most easy to understand, telling you some condition of field relationships wasn’t met, using some semi-machine names.
I fixed it so that the AGI on that form matched my AGI on the 1040, even though the instructions for the iterative calculation implied using the form values from the last run through of that process, whereas this would require one more run through of that form. I submitted again. Maybe 12 hours later, I got another email about a problem on that same form with a calculated percentage. This was also in my first email but I hadn’t really noticed it was a separate problem. Apparently, the percentage has to be always rounded down instead of nearest-neighbor. I resubmitted and in another few hours got an email that it was accepted. Woo-hoo.
I started on my Ohio returns through their I-file system before I had gotten that second federal failure. I had used I-file in the past, but probably more than a decade ago, and my account didn’t exist anymore. It was easy enough to get set back up again. It works a little more like a wizard. It was fairly straightforward to do the basic income stuff. At one point, though, there is a form with a bunch of yes / no radio buttons for whether you need to attach the various additional forms. Each has a question mark with a popup that gives a brief list of fields on that form, but not detailed enough to know for sure. I had to select “yes” on a number of them and then go through a bunch of lines putting in “0” because it didn’t end up being applicable. Oh well, much quicker than federal still.
Akron returns are pretty simple now that I know how to do them for my situation. Most of it is just knowing the several places that my federal Schedule C net income goes and copying it along, then doing some calculations from that. A bigger problem was finding the forms, because on both my phone and e-note, the menu with the link to the forms doesn’t seem to be accessible. I didn’t realize it until I looked on my computer. Also, Akron is the only one I have to send paper forms, because I need to attach the federal Schedule C. So I had to print, fill out, scan, prepare, and then take to the post office. I hope that the four pages plus check are light enough for a single stamp.
I did well money wise. Akron was the only one that I owed, and that’s because my Cogneato income was a bit higher than expected. It was only like $80 though. As always with state, I had overpaid. Most of that was from prior years, and has been pushed along from year to year. Ohio basically allows deducting all self-employed income below $250k, so I never owe much. I always push it to the next year because it seems the IRS considers getting money back for overpayment as income. The number I have there is approaching $600 with some 1099-R withholdings I left on, but will hopefully start going down with my new situation next year. For federal, I overpaid a lot, like $3k. I always try to go high with my estimates so I don’t owe, but not that high. I think changes to the PTC and some other things helped there. I pushed some forward to next year and took some as refund.
I think next year I should be able to use the same system. Next year will be different, because I am going to be getting most of my money W2 instead of 1099. That would make things much simper except that I will likely still have some 1099 income, so I may still have to fill out the same number of forms. However, since I’m getting money taken out now for each paycheck, I will no longer need to pay quarterly estimates. It will be very nice to at least only have to worry about taxes once a year. So, until next year. Unless of course a problem crops up with these forms. But I sure hope not.