Holiday season is drawing to a close, and we hope your celebration was exactly what you hoped for, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Toyotathon. But now it’s time to begin anew, with a new year and a new decade. That means resolutions: time to finally start that diet, give up those cancer sticks, or sign up for that newly-deductible gym membership that most people start regretting around Groundhog Day.
You probably don’t think of the IRS as being interested in helping you keep your New Year’s resolutions. But they do want to keep you healthy so you can keep paying taxes. Three years ago, the IRS sent letters to 3.9 million Americans who had paid fines for not carrying health insurance, suggesting ways to find coverage. At first glance, that seems incongruous — like, say, Quentin Tarantino directing a remake of Little Women. But a team of Treasury economists has discovered that the letters did encourage people to sign up — and saved an estimated 700 lives.
Now, we’re not here to debate the merits of mandating health insurance. And we don’t have anything to say about the IRS getting all up in your business. (They must think, hey, if Facebook can do it, so can they.) But the story got us wondering, what other ways the IRS could use the information they already have on us to remind us to make our lives better as we open the 2020s? The answers might surprise you!
- If you use your car for business, the IRS knows how old it is and how many miles you drive. (They can’t tell how fast you drive, at least not yet, but if you use that State Farm safe driving doohickie that Aaron Rogers advertises, it’s only a matter of time.) They can text you helpful reminders when it’s time to rotate your tires and get your oil changed. (Just kidding . . . the IRS won’t even email you, and they never text. If you get an email purporting to be from the IRS, it’s a scam!)
- If you itemize deductions, the IRS knows how generous you are with your charitable dollars. They’d probably be happy to remind you when school fundraisers and ballet company donor drives are approaching. They might even urge you to be just a little more generous!
- Personal exemptions disappeared with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. But the IRS still knows how old your children are (to determine if they qualify for the expanded Child Tax Credit). We’re sure they’ll be happy to help schedule well-child checkups and six-month teeth cleanings.
- If you own your home, your Form 1098 tells the IRS when you bought it and how much you paid for it. They could help you schedule big-ticket maintenance like a new furnace or roof. (Sadly, those aren’t deductible, except for investment properties.)
- IRS computers can match your Social Security number back to when your parents claimed you as a dependent, double-check to make sure they’re still filing returns (i.e., still alive), and send you letters reminding you to call Mom more often.
The nightmare scenario, of course, would be if the IRS teamed up with Facebook to put all your data to work. Fortunately, we haven’t arrived at that Black Mirror scenario, at least not yet. Right now, we’re focused on helping you pay less. But we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for helping safeguard your privacy. So welcome to 2020, and be sure to call us if your New Year’s resolution involves anything financial!