Where’s My ‘Green’ Refund?

Last night I finally got down to doing my taxes. Overall, it wasn’t too painful for me. Then again, I’m not going to mess around trying to nitpick at every deduction I can find.

I used Turbo Taxes for the second year. It’s pretty easy to go through and in the end I feel at least like I’m not getting totally screwed, or worse, in danger of being audited. I’d hate to have to sit in front of an IRS agent and explain that actually I have no idea why Turbo Tax gave me that deduction. I might feel silly then.

One thing about the whole process really bothered me though. I filed federal and state taxes (Massachusetts in my case). My basic process goes like this: Turbo Tax asks me some bizarre question and I answer yes or no to it. In most cases the answer is either no, or “I don’t know what that is” (which also means no). Overall, it makes things pretty simple.

I was amazed about how many questions I got asked regarding homes and cars:

  • Did I purchase a fuel efficient car last year?
  • Did I purchase an electric car last year?
  • Did I purchase a hybrid car last year?
  • Did I commute (regularly) to work last year and have proof of the tolls I paid?
  • Did I spend money making my home more energy efficient last year?

These things are great. If giving a tax break to people who buy fuel efficient cars actually makes Americans buy them, then I am all for this. I support hybrid, electric, or otherwise efficient cars 100%. If I bought a car, it would be a hybrid.

But that’s the problem: if I bought a car.

You see, I live in Boston. I don’t own a car. I don’t need one. I could buy one. But, I actively choose not to own car. I ride the T. I love the idea that I’m not contributing to the traffic jams, parking problems and other general crappy situations of the city.

The T really stinks a lot of the time. It’s usually not very convenient. I think that I’ve gotten frostbitten many times while waiting for the bus. Grocery shopping is miserable. And oh yeah, I can’t actually leave the city.

I grew up in the somewhat rural suburbs of southern Maine. Owning a car was not an option. If you wanted to work or live, you needed a car (unless you were training for the Tour de France or a marathon). Now that I live in the city, I love that this is actually a choice. I can go anywhere in Boston I want for under $2. I can go out (anywhere in Boston), and I never have to worry about how I’m going to get home.

Back to the point. Where’s my tax deduction for choosing not to own a car at all? Where’s my tax deduction for using public transportation 365 days a year? It’s not exactly cheap any more to ride the T.

Shouldn’t I get some sort of tax break for renting a house that my landlord refuses to make more energy efficient? I paid an awful lot of money on heating last year.

Enough of this self-absorbed rant. Doing this tax stuff just reminds me how truly broken the entire system is. ‘Til next year…

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