As you scrambled to finish up your taxes this year, did it ever cross your mind why it’s so mind-boggling complicated for everyone in the country to pay the government for the services it provides?
My colleague over at the Republic Report, Matt Stoller, was curious and looked into it. He found this chart of Intuit’s lobbying expenditures in Congress, from Open Secrets. Stoller writes, “I suspect that some of that nine million dollars of lobbying by that company since 2008 has gone to making it more annoying for you and me to file our taxes.”
In some countries, the equivalent of their IRS sends citizens a form listing what they owe. In California, the state has a program called ReadyReturn that lets you do this for California state taxes. You sign it and send it back, and it takes a few minutes. But for most of us, this isn’t how it works. We gather our tax forms and various banking information, and spend the weekend facing a difficult bureaucratic set of forms, hoping we did it all correctly. Or we use a costly tax filing service or software.
During his 2008 campaign Barack Obama promised to end this problem:
He said he would “dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes.” The IRS would use information it “already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return.” Experts, he said, estimated this would save 200 million total hours or work and $2 billion.
Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t go for that idea?
Well, the large software makers, for one. Intuit in fact lobbied incredibly hard to kill the California program Ready Return (complete with attacks from right-wingtax groups). Intuit wasn’t completely successful, but under their pressure, California budgeted only $10,000 to get the word out to residents about the program.
Yikes. This is only one example of how everyday corruption in government affects us all — and keeps us spending our time and money on unnecessary tax software.
Read the rest of the post at Republic Report.