Class Report

The Mysteries of the 1040 Form and Other Tax Basics

Teachers: Erica Zimmerman, statistician; Michelle Kuchinsky, environmental consultant; Gabrielle Sims, accountant
Documentarian: Elena Goukassian
Location: Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library
Date: March 26, 2014

See more photos of this class on Flickr!

What was the take-home message of the class?
Elena: You can get free taxes help all around D.C.! Provided you don’t make a lot of money.

What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Elena: The tax code is written so as to provide incentives for what the U.S. government deems “good” behavior, like filing jointly when you’re married, paying off your student loans, and adding solar panels to your house. The tax code also punishes you for “immoral” behavior. Example: You can’t take advantage of the more generous education credit, the American Opportunity Credit, if you have a felony drug conviction. As Erica, Michelle, and Gabrielle pointed out, you can be convicted of murder and still get the credit — but no drugs!

What can people read/watch/do for more information on this topic?
NPR “Planet Money” podcasts “Why Some People Love Tax Day” (about the Earned Income Tax Credit) and “The Surprisingly Entertaining History of the Income Tax

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax preparation services to individuals with no more than $35,000 in income and families with no more than $52,000 in income.

If you earned less than $58,000 in 2013, you can file your federal and state tax returns online for free.

To look up questions on your taxes yourself, check IRS publication 17.