Saturday, February 12, 2011

US Taxes 2010

All done, and barring objections from the IRS, a hefty refund coming my way, with an effective tax rate of 14.51%. Look on me, Belgians, and despair!

Public Service Announcement for Canadians:
Don’t forget, if AT ANY time in 2010, you had $10,000 or more across all your non-US bank accounts, you have to mail TD F 90-22.1 to the Department of the Treasury (NOT with your tax return).
Also, if you hold a Canadian RRSP, even if if it’s just sitting idle, you must file Form 8891 with your taxes. TurboTax seems to have improved their interviews, and will now guide you to both as part of the standard interview process.

Public Service Announcement for Americans: if you’re not discouraged by the upcoming rant, you can get a 25% discount on TurboTax from Fidelity, whether or not you are a member. See the deal at this link.

As usual, the bane of my existence is capital gains – I can power through pretty much an entire return in an hour except for the days I have to spend on stock sales. In theory, it’s quite simple – proceeds minus cost basis = taxable income, then split into short and long term. But the devil is in the details.

My problem – TurboTax REALLY sucks for handling multiple-source stock, and that’s using the Premier version, which costs extra specifically to handle this sort of thing. TurboTax simply does not admit that it’s possible to get stock from the open market, ESPP, and vesting grants, and sell it at once.

But I’m used to that – split the transactions up by category, assign the commissions at random, and you get a reasonable result. However, this apparently convinces TurboTax that you can’t process wash sales! I then spent AN HOUR with tech support, asking them how I could possibly just enter the wash sale amount (literally an hour of “well the question should be there” … “but it’s not, so now what”).

Eventually, I figured it out (after ditching tech support). I had to follow the ‘guidance’ for all my sales to calculate the cost basis (because it’s ridiculously complicated to calculate an ESPP cost basis), write the numbers down. Then I had to delete all the sales, then re-enter the raw proceeds and cost basis in the “advanced spreadsheet”, mark it complete. Only THEN will it ask about wash sales. Of course, since that amount may affect your previously-calculated basis, you then have to delete the stocks and re-enter them AGAIN with the new basis, and keep iterating on this process until your values have steady state.

The tech support lady said that in the downloaded product, you can just edit the forms directly. Well great. Fucking cloud!