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A U.S. tax return must be filed if a taxpayer pays income tax payments during that year or expects an income tax return. Source : Longman TOEFL PBT CD-ROM

I don't understand why we use the word or here and not the word and. I think the sentence means something like :

  • The people who must fill a U.S. tax return are the ones who pay income tax payments during that year and the ones who expect an income tax return.

Which (maybe) can be omitted to :

  • The people who must fill a U.S. tax return are the ones who pay income tax payments during that year and {omitted} expect an income tax return.

I also thought that all the people who can claim an income tax return must have paid the tax already that year, and so both "pays income tax payments during that year" and "expects an income tax return" describes the same taxpayer, but maybe that is not how the system works.

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    You're simply mistaken. The citation uses or because there are two possible reasons why a person needs to fill in a tax return - they must do so if either stated condition applies. Using and would imply they only need to fill in a return if both conditions are true. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '14 at 14:06
  • @FumbleFingers This might be quite off-topic.. but do you know how U.S. tax return works? Or do you know what website should I look at? – Santi Santichaivekin Dec 6 '14 at 14:13
  • As you'd expect, that question is indeed Off Topic. But I'm British, so I couldn't answer anyway. However, I imagine the US system will be the same as ours insofar as if you call in or phone your nearest tax office, their "code of conduct" will require them to be as helpful as possible. If your tax affairs are too complex for you to sort out like that you should probably be paying an accountant in the first place. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '14 at 18:20
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You can't use and here.

Not everyone who made tax payments, gets an income tax return (also called a refund). Some people, in fact, have to pay more taxes than were withheld from their pay due to various other factors.

There are two potential groups of people:

  • Taxpayers who paid income tax payments during that year
  • Taxpayers who expect an income tax return

Do some people fit both groups? - Yes.

Do all people fit both groups? - NO

If you say:

A U.S. tax return must be filed if a taxpayer pays income tax payments during that year and expects an income tax return.

That would imply that only people who fit both situations must file a tax return, which is incorrect.

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  • Thanks, so what's the correct sentence in this case? – XPMai Jun 4 '15 at 21:14
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    The sentence is correct as written in the source. No changes are necessary. – Catija Jun 4 '15 at 21:15
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The sentence doesn't make complete sense with either and/or. A taxpayer doesn't expect an income tax return. He may expect to file an income tax return or he may expect to receive an income tax refund. There is something wrong with it as written.

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  • I don't think there's anything wrong with either the grammar or the semantics "as written". The original "error" was to have expect instead of expects, but OP has posted the "corrected" version. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '14 at 18:24
  • @FumbleFingers I think "refund" would have been a better word than "return", if it is meaning you are getting money back from the IRS. At best I would say it is poorly written in context, though for learning purposes makes the intended grammar point. – user3169 Dec 6 '14 at 18:51
  • @user3169: I wouldn't want to get too bogged down in it, because US usage may not be the same as the British one I'm familiar with. But I read expects a tax return as meaning has reason to expect that the IRS will be sending a tax return form. I know I have to fill in a tax return this year (in Britain) because the tax office have told me they will be sending me a form - even though I told them on the phone that I have no income to declare. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '14 at 19:00
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    @FumbleFingers: The sentence may be grammatically correct, but it is factually wrong in its description of US income tax. – jamesqf Apr 5 '15 at 17:54

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