Welcome to Better Have My Money, my Monday night newsletter for investing newbies such as myself.
First of all, if you haven’t done your taxes yet QUICK run! You’ve got a few hours, or at least go and ask for an extension. You’ve probably done yours because you’re a organized person who cares about their money. I did mine last night, which is early for me. (Sorry Australia, this is an extremely US edition).
This year I swore I wouldn’t use TurboTax again (as I have the last four years) because they — along with other tax preparation companies — have lobbied really, really hard to ensure that no free tax preparation software is made by the IRS.
Basically people have long argued that the IRS could make the system much easier by providing taxpayers with automatically filled out documents that people can adjust and then file online, for free.
Except, Intuit (which owns TurboxTax), H&R Block and others argued that a free tax filing system created by the government would… threaten their business? And that was deemed more important, by both Democrats and Republicans (several Democrats who backed the bill later argued they didn’t realise that it contained a provision which banned the IRS from EVER creating such a product).
I was so frustrated by these greedy companies and decided I would find an accountant this year. Except then it was the day before tax day, and I hadn’t looked for an accountant and TurboTax had all my past tax info… so I swallowed my pride and started off trying to use the free version for my federal taxes.
But once I got to declaring my dividends and sales of stocks, TurboTax immediately bumped me to the paid version as the free version doesn’t “support” the necessary 1099 forms.
Confusing term of the week: “1099 form” — this is just the name of a tax form which shows that someone who was not your employer gave you money. It could be a bank paying you interest, or a client you’ve freelanced for. There’s a bunch of different 1099 forms.
BTW this was the first time I’d done my taxes since owning stocks! Literally, TurboTax just popped up with a “have you sold shares in the last year?” question, and then walked me through it. Ally and Robinhood, which are the two banks/apps I use to buy and sell stocks, both gave me 1099 forms that I could easily enter or upload.
You only pay tax on stocks AFTER you sell them. I’ve kept nearly all of my investments, and the banks had everything documented and I didn’t have to figure out the maths. The banks also register the dividends you’ve earned, however if it’s less than $10 — which was the case for my Acorns account — they don’t even give you a 1099 form for it.
Cause for all my frustrations, TurboTax is easy af to use. Just pour yourself a drink and work your way through the questions like a video game. If they didn’t lobby so heavily against a free version — and try to upsell at literally every moment — I would happily pay for it.
Then, right when I was about to click the final submit, I realized they added an extra $40 (sorry, $39.99, ahem) charge because I said to subtract my $114 TurboTax fee from my refund, and for that …. service? … they were going to charge me $40.
Something in me snapped.
I started re-entering all my information into Credit Karma, which offers free filing of state and federal taxes AND no income limit. But it was 10.30pm… and I’d already spent over an hour entering tax documents. I said stuff it, paid TurboTax the $114 via credit card to avoid the $40 fee, clicked submit, and moved on with my life.
Because sometimes, getting something done is the most important thing. I love to get high and mighty over every purchase in my life — I’ve googled “which organic egg is the most organic” while standing in so many supermarkets — but last nice I cared more about sleep than I did about the fees. Not every purchase is an act of morality.
Plus, I’m going to invest my tax return, so the sooner I get it, the better.
Tonight my heart is in Paris following the terrible fire at Notre Dame (and so is my stomach, I ate triple cream Delice de Bourgogne after work as a snack-in-solidarity). May I suggest a donation to your local Alliance Française chapter, which promotes French culture and language all over the world?
If things look a little different today, I’ve moved to Substack. Substack is basically a newish newsletter platform. What does that mean for you, my dear reader? Nothing really, just that their CMS is dramatically easier to deal with so you’ll see less images centered weirdly and text looking janky.
I moved my archives over (there was probably some efficient way for me to do this but I just copied and pasted every single newsletter I’ve written previously, plz no one reveal the easy way, I can’t get that hour of my life back), so make yourself comfortable and have a poke around. Turns out I’ve written a crapload about stocks and investing and money and my feelings now?
Substack does offer paid subscriptions. That’s not currently a thing I’m planning to do, since I like Better Have My Money to be a passion project that I don’t feel guilty about if I skip a week or three, but maybe one day I’ll want the income stream huh? These less-than-$10 dividends won’t support me forever.
Have a lovely week,
Better Have My Money is on Twitter @bhavemymoney, so please tweet nice things (aka a link to our new fancy page) and tag us. Got a mate who also hates taxes? Forward this onto them and tell them to subscribe. If you sign up to Acorns, use my sign up code to join and we both get $5.
As always, if you've got any questions about stocks, this is a shame free zone. Just reply and ask away.