Being the season of taxes and college applications, four dilemmas have recently been on my mind.
- The High School provides an official record saying zero absences. This is required by colleges to compare against the claim on applications. Reality was 5 days of excused absence. So, on the college application, do I write 0 days, or 5 days? Maybe the HS meant un-excused absences? But the admin assistants don’t know — all they know is that this is what the computer spits out. Do I try to get the HS to report a higher number? Do I write a note explaining to the college?
- The company provides a W-2 saying $1024. Reality is that they paid $1004. Should the higher number be reported to the IRS to avoid an audit? Reporting the true number appears like unreported income to the IRS.
- The web page or other form asks for my mother’s maiden name. I suspect they’re using this for a financial password, just like everybody else (which sort of negates its secret-ness, by the way). I usually make up mother maiden names like a password. The receptionist confirms that this would be okay. The form has a signature block attesting that everything is true. Is signing a lie?
- Lastly the FAFSA form asks for state of residency. Researching the EFC actual formulas reveals that this is used to give credit for where you’re living paying state tax. Due to contract jobs and/or military duty, what if I’m paying state taxes where I’m not a resident? How in the world do you complain to nameless FAFSA that the web page entry from says the wrong thing and doesn’t capture the intent of the original formula? In fact, I know government contracting, and highly suspect this was outsourced to a third party, who probably only did management oversight and sub-contracted the actual web page script. This is impenetrable. And, of course, there’s another “sign here and if everything isn’t right, you can go to jail.” Morally, do I answer what the web page asks, or answer what I know the congressional (lawful) intent was?