Author Topic: Anxiety over filling out government forms  (Read 430 times)

makincaid

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Anxiety over filling out government forms
« on: June 04, 2021, 02:42:19 PM »
Do any other early retirees suffer anxiety while filling out government forms like census surveys and ACA income estimators. Often is not completely clear what to you use on these forms since my income situation is not standard (mostly Roth Conversions). I know that a lot of my answers would seem very strange to someone reviewing the forms.

For example, I just filled out a census survey. I used the income from my last tax so I felt pretty good about that. Most of it was generated with a IRA rollover but there really wasn't an option for that. Only for IRA withdrawal, which I did not have. They did have an option for interest income which I was able to click yes.

Also, I worry about my house still be my primary residence? Since I quit working I have spent probably more than half my time either traveling or with family. So does my house still qualify as a primary residence?

So any other retirees suffering confusion and anxiety over filling out these types of forms? Also any horror stories?

draco44

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2021, 03:13:52 PM »
Re. the Census and residency, it sounds like you are fine.

The goal of the Census officials is to count everyone, count them once (i.e. not accidentally double-count anyone, like snowbirds or college kids living in dorms but still connected to their parental households), and count them in the location it's most appropriate to count them in.

From the info you provided, it sounds like your house would be your primary residence. Census Bureau rules state that people are to be counted in their “usual residence,” which is the place where you sleep most of the time. If there is no residence where you live and sleep most of the time, you should be counted where you live and sleep more than anywhere else. If time is equally divided between multiple places, you are supposed to be counted wherever you were on Census Day, which is April 1 the year the Census is being conducted.

Don't worry about one-off or infrequent travel destinations. As long as your family didn't include you as a member of their household on their Census forms when they filled them out, you should be good to go by listing your house as your primary residence.

secondcor521

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2021, 03:15:30 PM »
Nope.  No anxiety and no horror stories.

I did fill out the US census, but I don't recall it asking for my income in any detail.

If I get asked questions by people and I don't need them to know the answer, then I'll probably not answer or tell them to pound sand.

I do have a pretty good understanding of the ACA.  In general, I also have a pretty good understanding of the lay of the land when I'm answering someone's questions so I'm able to give them answers that make sense in whatever context we happen to be in.

It's quite possible you are worrying too much, understanding too little, and giving people information they don't need.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2021, 03:25:57 PM »
The questions aren't designed to trip you up or induce you into a lie, they're kept as simple as possible so that they can be answered by people who can barely spell their own name while still collecting useful data about the country. They're not going to cover every weird edge case.

There is no reason to overthink it. Just answer as best you can, and call it a day.

makincaid

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2021, 03:35:41 PM »
Thank you for the reassurance guys. Everytime I'm filling out these forms I get visions of federal agents knocking on the door to interrogate me.I certainly hope I am just over anxious about this.

@secondcor521
Technically, I can be fined or imprisoned for not filling out the census forms. Do it sounds like no one has actually been prosecuted that's not till Sunday. I guess I could skip the ACA forms but I don't know that I could sign up for the ACA without filling out the form.

Certainly the thing I miss most about work is having regular W-2 income. Makes answering questions much easier.

secondcor521

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2021, 03:43:15 PM »
Thank you for the reassurance guys. Everytime I'm filling out these forms I get visions of federal agents knocking on the door to interrogate me.I certainly hope I am just over anxious about this.

@secondcor521
Technically, I can be fined or imprisoned for not filling out the census forms. Do it sounds like no one has actually been prosecuted that's not till Sunday. I guess I could skip the ACA forms but I don't know that I could sign up for the ACA without filling out the form.

Certainly the thing I miss most about work is having regular W-2 income. Makes answering questions much easier.

Since you mentioned the ACA, I assumed you lived in the US.

The 2020 US census was a year ago and the results from that census were published over a month ago.[1]  I don't know what census form you're filling out, but if you're filling it out now I really doubt it is the real US census.  (It sounds to me like someone is lying to you and pretending to be the US census when they are, in fact, not.)

I tell them to pound sand if they don't have a legal reason for me to give them the answer or I don't care if they know the answer.  I did answer the US census, I do provide income estimates to the ACA, and I do file my tax returns each year.  But if a vacuum cleaner salesman comes to my door and wants to know how much interest income I make or some Internet form asks me, I tell those kind of people to pound sand.

[1] https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/decade/2020/2020-census-main.html
« Last Edit: June 04, 2021, 03:44:46 PM by secondcor521 »

makincaid

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2021, 03:51:43 PM »
The form I got was the census Community survey. Which goes out every year to a random sample of people. It appears to be a real thing and legally required.

https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/about/top-questions-about-the-survey.html#:~:text=Is%20the%20American%20Community%20Survey,of%20Columbia%2C%20and%20Puerto%20Rico.

secondcor521

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2021, 04:10:37 PM »
The form I got was the census Community survey. Which goes out every year to a random sample of people. It appears to be a real thing and legally required.

https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/about/top-questions-about-the-survey.html#:~:text=Is%20the%20American%20Community%20Survey,of%20Columbia%2C%20and%20Puerto%20Rico.

Ah, didn't know about that.  I'd probably read the law cited and then reply.

mckaylabaloney

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Re: Anxiety over filling out government forms
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2021, 04:31:08 PM »
Thank you for the reassurance guys. Everytime I'm filling out these forms I get visions of federal agents knocking on the door to interrogate me.I certainly hope I am just over anxious about this.

Respectfully, this is an irrational fear: it's something that simply isn't going to happen.

That may or may not be helpful information. If that's all you need to hear to stop worrying about it, great. But our fears and anxieties don't necessarily respond to reason. If this is a persistent and significant anxiety for you that isn't soothed by facts, you might benefit from speaking to a mental health professional. (I hope it's clear that I'm not saying this in a remotely derogatory way; big fan of therapy over here!)

Not to overgeneralize toooo much, but for the most part, the worst things that might happen from filling out a government form incorrectly but in good faith are (1) you might have to speak to somebody on the phone to correct a mistake, or (2) you might have to pay a little more in taxes than you anticipate (thinking specifically of the ACA income estimator here).

Looking at the cited census laws specifically (with the qualification that I'm a lawyer, but not your lawyer), you are totally fine. 13 U.S.C. 221 (titled "Refusal or neglect to answer questions; false answers") says that you can be fined up to $100 for "refus[ing] or willfully neglect[ing] to fill out census questions. You're filling out the form, not refusing or willfully neglecting to fill it out, so you're good there. It also says that you can be fined up to $500 for "willfully giv[ing] any answer that is false." You're good here too, because you're not lying--at worst, you might make a mistake, which isn't illegal. Both types of offenses--neither of which you are committing--are considered infractions (i.e. not even misdemeanors). Later sentencing laws have provided that infractions can be fined up to $5000, but that's the absolute worst that would happen, and you don't need to worry about it because (1) it doesn't ever ever ever happen, and (2) you're not violating the law anyway.