clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MOST UTAHNS SAY NO TO TAXING JOB

Nearly 60 percent of Utahns find their income tax forms so difficult that they have someone else prepare their taxes, the latest Deseret News/KSL poll shows.

And of the 40 percent who do their own taxes, 55 percent spend between two and 12 hours working on them, pollster Dan Jones & Associates found.Tax time is here, of course. If you haven't already done so, you must mail your forms by midnight Monday. Because April 15 - the traditional tax deadline - fell on a Saturday this year, the tax man gives you until the following weekday.

Half of all Americans wait until the final two weeks to file their income taxes, a quarter wait until the last day to file, statistics show.

The difficulty of doing your own taxes is clear. And the complex nature - and some believe the unfair nature - of federal and state income taxes is driving a new move in Congress to reform the nation's federal income tax system.

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, recently told the Deseret News editorial board that he believes his idea of a complete federal income tax filing on one side of a postcard-size return will be part of the 1996 presidential election debate.

There are already several flat-rate income tax proposals in Congress, said Bennett. Some have low rates - around 15-17 percent - and don't allow any deductions - not for mortgage interest, not for charitable giving. Others have slightly higher flat rates but do allow mortgage interest and charitable-giving deductions.

The latest newspaper/TV survey shows that income tax filing has become too hard for most Utahns to do by themselves. When Jones broke people out by their educational background, he found only one group where a majority did their own taxes - college graduates. Fifty-two percent of college grads did their own returns, while 47 percent of college graduates had someone else prepare their taxes.

In all other educational groups - those without a high school degree, those with a high school degree and those with a high school degree plus some college class work - more than 60 percent had someone else do their taxes.

Not surprisingly, most richer Utahns had someone else prepare their returns. Further proof that the rich can afford to hire someone to help them find legitimate tax loopholes.

Jones found that 63 percent of those who make more than $60,000 a year have someone else do their taxes. Just 50 percent of those making under $15,000 a year have someone else do their taxes.

Utah Tax Commission spokeswoman Janice Perry says the commission changed its withholding tables for 1994, leading more Utahns to get state tax refunds this year. Accordingly, more state taxpayers are filing early this year, eager to get some cash back.

"Our old withholding tables were based on the assumption of a one wager-earner family. That just isn't the case in Utah anymore, where most families have two wage earners. The new tables reflect that, and many people had too much withheld from their paychecks," said Perry. As of April 10, the Tax Commission had issued 356,000 refunds this year, up by 100,000 over a year ago at the same time.

Jan Hadley, spokeswoman for the Utah operation of the Internal Revenue Service, says about 740,000 Utahns filed federal income tax returns for the 1993 tax year. Of those, the IRS audited 4,196 Utahns. The Utah Tax Commission usually doesn't conduct its own original audits, it just takes the IRS audits and reviews them for any money owed the state, said Perry.

Because of their conservative political nature and propensity to accept off-beat tax advice, Utahns used to lead the nation in the per capita number of so-called "tax protesters" - people who refused to file federal income tax returns, claiming the tax was unconstitutional.

To get those tax protesters, IRS officials started a beefed-up enforcement program in the state. The number of identified tax protesters has dropped to about 2,000, Hadley said.

"There are about 10,000 Utahns - most of them not tax protesters - who should be filing federal returns who aren't," said Hadley. To help get those people to follow the law, the local IRS office last year started "Fresh Start" - a federal program aimed at getting people to file back tax returns.

"Except for the tax protesters, most people who don't file have some kind of catastrophe in their lives, like a death or a divorce. When they don't file one year because of that problem, they're afraid to file the next," says Hadley. In fact, of the 1,500 people who went through Fresh Start last year and started filing returns again, the average delinquent taxpayer hadn't filed in four years. Some people hadn't filed for 15 years or more, she said.

"More than 40 percent of those (filing back returns) actually got refunds. They were just afraid and confused," says Hadley. IRS officials will help you file an extension for this tax year, get old W2 forms from past employers and advise you on the tax process, said Hadley. If you want to start filing returns again, the Fresh Start number is 1-800-829-1040.

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Deseret News/KSL poll

Will you prepare your own income taxes this year, or will someone outside your household prepare your income taxes?

PREPARE OWN TAXES 40%

SOMEONE ELSE 58%

DON'T KNOW 2%

If you prepared your own taxes, approximately how many hours did/will you spend on your tax preparation?

LESS THAN 2 HOURS 27%

2-5 HOURS 37%

6-12 HOURS 18%

13-18 HOURS 5%

MORE THAN 18 HOURS 3%

DON'T KNOW 10%

Poll conducted March 28-29, 1995. Margin of error +/-4% on interviews of 607 adults statewide. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1995 Deseret News.