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Why the IRS Should Automatically Fill In Returns With What It Knows 613

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-addition-is-mentally-taxing dept.
theodp writes "An article in the NY Times begins, 'In the digital age, filing income tax returns should be a snap. Important data from employers and financial institutions has already been sent to government computers. Yet taxpayers are still required to perform the chore of preparing a return from scratch, in many cases paying a software company for the privilege.' Why, if your needs are simple, can't you just download forms pre-filled with whatever data the IRS has received about you, make any necessary adjustments, and automatically get the IRS calculation of your taxes? Sounds reasonable, but the IRS rejected the President's proposal to give taxpayers the option to do so as 'not feasible at this time' due to delays in the receipt of W-2 and 1099 data. However, California managed to offer a pre-filled state tax return, which cost only 34 cents to process compared to $2.59 to process a traditional paper return. Despite the success of the pilot, meager funds have been allotted for the program due to the strength of its political opponents — 'principally, Intuit' — according to the state controller. Intuit argues it would be a 'conflict of interest for government to be both tax collector and tax preparer.'"
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Why the IRS Should Automatically Fill In Returns With What It Knows

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  • by Louai (1243284) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:30PM (#30879612)
    In Finland you get a pre-filled tax sheet in the mail, you only have to return it if there are any changes you need to make. I'm currently living in the US, I find the amount of crap you need to go through to get your affairs in order absolutely stunning.
    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:39PM (#30879716)

      Just wait until you do what I did and live in 4 different states in a year... Seriously 5 tax returns, some owed me, I owed some.

    • by c-reus (852386) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:01PM (#30879958) Homepage

      In Estonia, you log in to the web page of the IRS equivalent, click "Next" a few times, then click "Confirm" and you're all done. No dead trees involved.

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:05PM (#30880018)
      In the US private companies are able to fill in your data electronically. Your employer, banks, etc can download their data (essentially the forms the IRS has them mail to you) directly into your tax preparation software. It is only the gov't that finds such things infeasible.

      --
      Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone and iPod touch, scientific and bill/tip calculator, fractions, complex numbers, RPN
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bengie (1121981)

        I completely forgot about this. Last year Turbo Tax let me fill out my taxes based on my company. All I did is select my company from a list and it auto-filled all of my data and I checked it over.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by idji (984038)
      In Austria it is even simpler than that. Do NOTHING at all unless you want to make some special claim because all normal claims - like number of kids, commuter-rebate and so on go through the employer. And you can change or add any data you like at anytime over the next 5 years in an online government portal / and the telephone hotline is free and there is no waiting and the people are really helpful.
  • Conflict? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mapinguari (110030) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:30PM (#30879616)

    Intuit would probably argue that it's a conflict of interest to be both a tax payer and tax preparer.

    • Re:Conflict? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:45PM (#30879772)
      Oh yes, the tax preparation services will fight this tooth and nail.

      Almost every year about this time I post some sort of rant about how wasteful it is that we don't even have a free, official online tax-filing website. It would save filers tons of time, it would save the IRS tons of money. But the tax preparers don't care about that (after all, $1 of intentional government inefficiency is 25 cents of income for them) and somehow, though I can't figure out how, this tiny special interest has the power to dictate government policy.

      • Re:Conflict? (Score:4, Informative)

        by nbauman (624611) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:00PM (#30879944) Homepage Journal

        http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/all_summary.php?id=D000026667&nid=3868 [opensecrets.org]

        Intuit Inc

        Rank: 598th
        2008 total combined contributions: $818,259
        2008 federal-level contributions: $394,475
        2008 state-level contributions: $423,784

        That's a pretty good return on the dollar.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jenn_13 (1123793)

        Almost every year about this time I post some sort of rant about how wasteful it is that we don't even have a free, official online tax-filing website. It would save filers tons of time, it would save the IRS tons of money. But the tax preparers don't care about that (after all, $1 of intentional government inefficiency is 25 cents of income for them) and somehow, though I can't figure out how, this tiny special interest has the power to dictate government policy.

        It's not exactly "official", as you have to go to a third party, but you can file online free. I worked as a tax preparer one year, and from my experience, the reason most clients chose $tax_service instead of doing it themselves (paper or online) wasn't because they couldn't, but because $tax_service offered refund anticipation loans. Which means they get a check for several thousand, less a couple hundred in fees, the next day, rather than waiting a week or more for direct deposit of the full refund.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mysidia (191772)

          Is American consumerism so out of control we take out loans on anticipated income now, in order to spend it as soon as possible (with extra fees tacked on due to interest / finance charges) ?

          I wonder what happens to consumers who take said loans if the IRS "corrects" their return and eliminates their refund.

          I guess they bought their fancy toys/doodads by the time that happens though, and they can default on their anticipation loan in the same way they stopped paying their credit card bills and mortage

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rich0 (548339)

          Really? I can prepare my own taxes and file them electronically without paying anybody a cent, regardless of my income level or what forms I am filing?

          Can you give a reference for this? The last time I checked the best you could do is have the government pick up the filing tab if your income fell into 1040EZ range. No doubt there would be other limitations like standard deduction only/etc.

          My state, on the other hand, lets me file electronically over the web. I don't need to pay for software, or services

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:31PM (#30879626) Homepage Journal

    They still think I owe them over $5,000 for back taxes, even though all the documents were sent directly to them and they know precisely how much I made and/or didn't make, and only ever owed them about a hundred and fifty bucks (which has long since been paid off.) they stole a bunch of my money through withholding to which they were not entitled, and since I passed some arbitrary deadline without getting it all resolved, they intend to keep it. Fuck California and the California Franchise Tax Board in the neck.

    With that said, if you don't have to file if you make less than the exemption amount, why should you have to file if you don't have any unusual economic activity to account for? That's ridiculous.

  • works fine in Sweden (Score:5, Informative)

    by BuR4N (512430) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:32PM (#30879638) Homepage Journal
    pre-filled tax forms that you only have to sign and return have worked well here in Sweden for years, no conflict of interest at all. A couple of years ago, they even started with an SMS option, where you just can "ok" your pre filled tax form with an SMS code.

    If you want to add information, you can just fill in your own form and send it in, but I think its pretty common to just use the pre-filled tax form.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:51PM (#30879858)

      You know, when I was reading your post, I thought Sweden, eh? Wavy line... wavy lines...

      Knocking at the door. Swedish male citizen goes and answers it.

      Beautiful blond is at the door. (Translated to American)"Hi, I'm with the Revenue Service and I have your tax form. Do you want to have sex before or after reviewing your tax form?"

      Swedish make citizen: "Um. Let me ask my wife. Honey, should I have sex with the tax collector before or after reviewing the form?"

      Beautiful blond Swedish wife walks in: "Listen YOU! We filed jointly so it HAS to be a threesome before AND after reviewing the form!"

      Tax collector: "That's IS the law! File jointly and it's a threesome! I'm terribly sorry!"

      So this is the way it happens over there, right? Really?!?

    • Ah yes is Sweden also not the place with the highest amount of deductions? You get taxed out of the wahzoo, and the only real way to lower your taxes is to start claiming things. So are you saying by not claiming things you are happy to pay such high taxes?

      • by nanoakron (234907) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:05PM (#30880020)

        Whilst I don't live in Sweden (I'm in the UK), I have to ask quite what your point is?

        The Swedes may pay more in taxes, but in return get free healthcare, good roads, low crime, free schooling and university, (i believe) free (or heavily subsidised) childcare, efficient public transport, and much more.

        They're also very highly rated in terms of their low wealth disparity (road fines for example are based on a percentage of your annual income so that a rockstar in a ferrari feels the same sting in their speeding ticket as does a poor person in a skoda), and human development index.

        I could go on. The key point is that nations all make decisions about their priorities - the US believes in waging war and keeping the poor unhealthy and uneducated, other nations do not.

        tl;dr - high taxes are worth paying if you get good services in return. Think of Sweden as the 'Apple' of nations, versus the 'Windows Me' of the USA.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TERdON (862570)

          >Whilst I don't live in Sweden (I'm in the UK), I have to ask quite what your point is?
          I do live in Sweden. Let's check your claims...

          >The Swedes may pay more in taxes, but in return get free healthcare
          Untrue. Low cost only (there are small fees). And (sometimes very long!) queues...

          >good roads
          Questionable, depends a lot on where you drive! Many smaller roads and streets in towns have suffered badly during the last decades from reduced maintenance.

          >low crime free schooling and university
          Probably

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Phoobarnvaz (1030274)

          The Swedes may pay more in taxes, but in return get free healthcare, good roads, low crime, free schooling and university, (i believe) free (or heavily subsidised) childcare, efficient public transport, and much more.

          When the US is number 36 or 37 in terms of healthcare...but if you're poor...you're living like in a 3rd World country...doesn't say much about this country. I know people are going to bust my balls about how great is all the freedom we "enjoy" in this country. When you have around 17 percent of your population un/underemployed...these members aren't any better of than those living in Central America or Africa. I would love to be able to get my teaching degree...but with the outrageous cost/benefit to do s

  • people are lazy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <<circletimessquare> <at> <gmail.com>> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:32PM (#30879640) Homepage Journal

    intuit is right: the government will claim this or that, and people will just accept it. when an honest mistake by the government, nevermind malicious intent, might wind up overtaxing someone. most people will wind up spending say $2,000 more on their taxes, accepting the government's proposal unseen, rather than reviewing it for mistakes

    i don't know about other people, but for me, i'd rather pull my own fingernails out with a wrench than do my taxes. however, the current status quo means that if there is an error, whether honest mistake or malicious, it is usually in favor of the individual, not the government

    • Re:people are lazy (Score:5, Informative)

      by samkass (174571) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:41PM (#30879742) Homepage Journal

      the government will claim this or that, and people will just accept it. when an honest mistake by the government, nevermind malicious intent, might wind up overtaxing someone. most people will wind up spending say $2,000 more on their taxes, accepting the government's proposal unseen, rather than reviewing it for mistakes

      I don't have a problem with that. You can't save everyone. The amount of efficiency in the average case would be so great, though, that overall I suspect it would offer more money to both the government AND the taxpayer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Klinky (636952)
      If there is an error in favor of the individual, if it's significant, the IRS may bring on an audit. If you catch the mistake after you file, your amended return gets more scrutiny and you have a higher chance of audit. I wouldn't sleep soundly if I knew there was an error and just let it slide because it gave me a couple extra bucks. Basically, if there is an error it needs to be fixed, you don't just want to sleep on it and go "well at least this worked out in my favor". As far as people being duped into
    • I have no problem with people paying more if they are lazy.

      I'm also pragmatic - most people are probably too lazy to truly review the the information sent to them anyway.

      Do you double-check your W2's against your pay stubs? Most people don't.

      It might end up being more fair, if the government does it, they might end up being responsible for ensuring you don't get totally screwed. Right now, you're the only one responsible for that.

  • by TickTEC (909288) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:33PM (#30879642) Homepage
    Here in Norway, if you feel you have nothing to add, you don't even have to return the papers. Just sit back and relax. I've never had to fill out anything.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      The moderators seem to think you're joking, but the right moderation is informative. We actually have passive acceptance, if you have no changes to make you don't have to do anything at all. And the government gets quite substantial amounts of data from employers, banks, property registry, car registry etc. so many people have nothing that needs changing.

      • by jra (5600)

        > And the government gets quite substantial amounts of data from employers, banks, property registry, car registry etc. so many people have nothing that needs changing.

        And you say that like it's a *good* thing...

        • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:16PM (#30880188) Homepage

          And you say that like it's a *good* thing...

          You say that as if the government shouldn't know about it in the first place.

          You got income? Income tax.
          You got deposits? Capital tax on interest, wealth tax on balance
          You got loans? Deductions.
          You got property? Property tax.
          You got a car? Wealth tax.

          All of these are things you would have to declare anyway in order to stay legitimate. In many cases the government can't help but to know about it, employers have to file taxes as well including payroll, for properties and cars the government is the one tracking deeds and our version of the DMV registry and so on. All it does is saving you the paperwork, and there are lots of other taxes and deductions you have to correct yourself, it's not trying to cover everything.

          We are in fact rather suspicious of data storage and in favor of privacy protection, right now for example there's a debate on EUs data storage directive. Only the largest party of the ruling government is for, five are against and one is undecided but just recently their biggest region took a "no" vote with great majority. If they too oppose the directive, it would become Norway's first EU veto since 1994. I'm hoping that will happen.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            We are in fact rather suspicious of data storage and in favor of privacy protection, right now for example there's a debate on EUs data storage directive.

            People in the US think they're so advanced when it comes to privacy protection that they become blind towards what real privacy means in this century. While they are raging against the government surveillance boogyman private companies are trading between themselves databases of their names, addresses, SSNs, phone numbers, family, shopping habits, color

  • Interesting logic on Intuit's part. It shows the extent to which corporations will go to justify their existence.

    Our current system relies on the taxpayer to disclose income and deductions. Isn't it a conflict of interest to have the person paying the taxes decide what to tell the government? In the current case, only the people who know what information the government collects (W-2, 1099 i.e. people who don't get paid in cash) disclose everything.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TomXP411 (860000)

      It's a conflict of interest for the clerk at Wal-Mart to tell me how much I owe AND collect my money?

      The real conflict of interest is for corporations to give money to election campaigns.

      The root cause of this is that corporations have too much power in our system. Corporations buy politicians and they buy court verdicts. It's just wrong, and we need to fix the system, starting with the "golden rule".

      In court, make the richer party pay for both lawyers, and eliminate corporate contributions for political ca

  • by tarsi210 (70325) <nathan AT nathanpralle DOT com> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:35PM (#30879674) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how much the IRS figures into its revenue stream the profit obtained via people filing taxes and not knowing what they're doing. Folks who use professional preparation services no doubt get them correct most of the time and owe the correct amount (or get the right refund), but how many people are just doing it via paper and submitting, and, due to the arcane, maze of rules and regulations, overpay and don't claim the exemptions they should?

    Leave it up to the IRS -- they probably have it figured out that if they pre-fill items on forms, that means less error and less money. Plus, this gives them more opportunity to audit and assess fees. Whee!
    • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:45PM (#30879780)

      And of course, why do individuals who know what they are doing have no way to pay or file with the IRS directly? I should be able to submit my 1040 electronically for free, from the IRS.gov website. Instead, I have to go to a 3rd party, where my income levels dictate I have to pay, even though I know what I need. That is just protectionism..

    • by Swave An deBwoner (907414) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:56PM (#30879898)

      I wonder how much the IRS figures into its revenue stream the profit obtained via people filing taxes and not knowing what they're doing. Folks who use professional preparation services no doubt get them correct most of the time and owe the correct amount (or get the right refund), but how many people are just doing it via paper and submitting, and, due to the arcane, maze of rules and regulations, overpay and don't claim the exemptions they should? Leave it up to the IRS -- they probably have it figured out that if they pre-fill items on forms, that means less error and less money. Plus, this gives them more opportunity to audit and assess fees. Whee!

      As someone who has previously received a refund on tax paid in error, I think that IRS doesn't use the trick you're wondering about at all. If they find that you have overpaid, they refund the overpayment on their own.

      Of course they can't know what exemptions you are entitled to unless you have told them already, e.g. via the W-4 form that you filed with your employer and which the employer used to determine how much of your income to withhold for the IRS.

      For most people, the proposed method would probably work out just fine. Rich people who have complex tax filings would just continue to have their accountant handle the issues. Those who fall in-between could still use TurboTax :-)

    • by OzPeter (195038)
      In Australia a few years back (well more than 10 or 15) they streamlined the process for filling out taxes. The government produced a really nice paper document that walked you through the exact process of what to fill out and where to do it. In the following years tax revenue was down because people were claiming exactly what they were entitled to. Later on the process was made slightly more confusing. I remember cynically thinking at the time why things were changing again.
  • Either you get it right, in which case same result to them.

    Or you pay to much, in which case they win.

    Or you pay too little, in which case they hit you with interest and penalties and win again.

  • I don't know how they can possibly defend that position. The very necessity of a tax-preparation industry is insane, and the only way they get away with it ethically is by blaming the government for having such complicated tax laws. But there's no way for them to reasonably object when the government makes things simpler and more efficient.

    Intuit is evil anyway. Charging $50 for the same software every year.. Not to mention SafeDisc.. [slashdot.org]

  • Why, if your needs are simple, can't you just download forms pre-filled with whatever data the IRS has received about you, make any necessary adjustments, and automatically get the IRS calculation of your taxes

    But IRS does more than this - if your employment is simple, you don't have to fill in any forms at all.

    oh, wrong country.

    Well, it's a good question - why can't your IRS also do this?

  • After all, if the Government makes all the claims about you, and fills out your form, how can they hold you liable for their mistakes? Makes getting people charged with tax fraud and perjury and threatening them with jail time if they do not pay up the dollars demanded pretty hard...
    • by jra (5600)

      In fact, if you ask the IRS for advice on how to handle a tax issue, and they give it to you (which is unusual), they *still* disclaim responsibility for their possibly being wrong, and people have undergone financial and (I think) criminal sanctions *for believing what the IRS told them*.

      • In fact, if you ask the IRS for advice on how to handle a tax issue, and they give it to you (which is unusual), they *still* disclaim responsibility for their possibly being wrong, and people have undergone financial and (I think) criminal sanctions *for believing what the IRS told them*.

        I know, it's happened to me. In fact, the IRS - for 7 years in a row - assigned my LLC a new EIN every year because of a typo in their systems, and promptly sent the new EIN information to an address I had not lived at for 6 years (even though they had the right address for the proper EIN). It took the better part of 2 years and around $250,000 in costs and lost levies (illegally attached, but after 21 days it doesn't matter - they get to keep the cash regardless of their error in the levy) to get it stra

      • by russotto (537200) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:09PM (#30880082) Journal

        In fact, if you ask the IRS for advice on how to handle a tax issue, and they give it to you (which is unusual), they *still* disclaim responsibility for their possibly being wrong, and people have undergone financial and (I think) criminal sanctions *for believing what the IRS told them*.

        If you get the advice IN WRITING (I think this means dead trees), you can escape penalties and criminal sanctions. You're still on the hook for interest and taxes.

  • Increases Fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikeplokta (223052) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:50PM (#30879842)

    If the IRS pre-fills what the government knows about on the form, then that tells you what the government doesn't know about, and thus can safely be omitted. If you get a blank form, there's always the risk that the government knows about your offshore account and will prosecute you for omitting it.

    • by JakFrost (139885) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:37PM (#30880466)

      You forget that you take responsibility for what is on the form, even if it is pre-filled the moment you sign it. There's nothing stopping the government from sending you a blank or zero form and you'll just sign it and send it in thinking that you won't get prosecuted for the offshore tax haven account that you have. They'll still go after you no matter what.

      Less Fraud, More Correct Taxes

      There will be no increase of fraud due to this but I predict that most people will actually send their taxes in quicker and more of them will be more correct than the current numbers. We already have the IRS eFile system to let you do the web form part but they are all blank. It would be nice if they were pre-filled in with your information already. You'll just glance at it, take your Standard Deduction instead of Itemized Deduction for most people, type in your bank account or credit card number to pay or receive payment. You wouldn't have to look for or dig out those W2 or 1099 forms trying to figure out all the income.

      Special Interests At Work

      The simple point is that in the United States the government is run by "special interest" groups. The founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison warned us about the dire effects that special interest groups will have on the government if they are allowed to mass their money and influence the rule of the country. It's all in their speeches that we all should have been forced to read in elementary and high school history and civics courses. America's educational failure.

      Now what do we have, a special interest part such as Intuit who is responsible for the Turbo Tax software and their electronic filing service trying to prevent the government from offering a pre-filled tax form service to the people. Just imagine how quickly Intuit would change its mind if the government approached them and told them that they would be the sole company responsible for getting people's taxes filed and I can guarantee that the first year you'll be presented with almost completed and pre-filled forms once your type in your Tax ID number.

      Educational Gaming

      We need a multi-genra massively multi-player video game where at first you play a First Person Shooter with friends as a team of The Founding Fathers and you first kick the British out of the colonies, then it switches to Real Time Strategy game where you maneuver the troops during the colonial war, and later it switches to a Civilization type diplomatic game where you negotiate terms of the new constitution and treaties with European countries. It'd be a nice way to have kids experience a modern way of what the history taught us. Sprinkle in a good load of historic facts in the game and you'll have kids arguing their view points because of the game.

  • UK Tax Returns (Score:5, Informative)

    by nanoakron (234907) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:53PM (#30879878)

    Here in the UK, most people pay tax through the PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn) scheme. The only people who regularly don't are the self-employed.

    This means that the majority of the working population NEVER need to file tax returns.

    However, some people do regularly file tax returns -

    1. People asked to do so through random audit
    2. If you are considered a 'high-rate' taxpayer (meaning you earn more than about £36,000pa).

    But, you can elect to file a tax return even if you earn less than the 'high-rate', and you can often get some money back for overpayments.

    I still can't believe the amount of hassle you have to go through in the US each year when it comes to tax-time.

    -Nano.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      When I was self-employed in the UK, I didn't have to prepare my tax returns. I simply took all the paperwork to the local Inland Revenue office, sat in their waiting room for a bit, allowed them to go through all the paperwork and at the end of the day, I walked away with a cashier's cheque of how much they owed me. Cost to me: Zero.

      It seems that they really try to not tell anyone that they must assist people with their tax returns free of charge.

      (When I left the UK middle of the tax year, technically they

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ironsides (739422)
      Ok. How does that work if you have outside sources of income or deductions? In the US, interest on your bank account is taxable. Dividends from stocks you own are taxable. Interest from Student Loans, House Mortgage or charitable donations are tax deductible. We also have retirement account contributions that are tax deductible until we start withdrawing them when they are taxable. (or vice versa depending on the retirement account) Does the UK have as complicated a scheme that is not based purely on
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bloobloo (957543)

        In the UK:

        Interest on your bank account is paid net of tax automatically by the bank. If you are an upper rate payer, you declare the interest and pay the extra differential yourself (e.g. you receive gross £5 interest. The bank pays you £4 and the government £1. If you are an upper rate payer, you declare this on your tax return and pay the extra £1). The bank will give you a certificate stating how much interest you received so you can prove the amount you owe if necessary.

        EU compa

  • The IRS shouldn't even exist. Why tax productive work? Why not tax consumption? The more you buy, the more tax you pay. If you save and are thrifty, the less tax you pay.

    http://www.fairtax.org/ [fairtax.org]

  • The real issue here isn't companies, but the IRS itself. If it could computerize and provide pre-filled tax forms then the agency would need far fewer auditors, lawyers, data entry folks, and so on. No group, be it inside a company or in government likes to take actions that reduce their size and perceived importance even if it is the best thing to do.

    The US greatly needs to simply its tax code, allowing things like pre-generated forms to be accurate for a much larger group of Americans. While this will

  • This is a grand idea that I am mostly in favor of, but before we proceed to that there is something I would like to see first...

    Namely, do away with the retarded fee to file my state taxes online. I purchased TurboTax and it lets me file my federal for free, but there is a fee ($20 or something, I'm not sitting at that machine at the moment so I can't verify it) to file! And if I want to use part of my return to pay that fee, it costs me an extra $30. How retarded is that.
  • This should be blatantly obvious. Of course they already know most of the answers. But they're using this as a test of your honesty. Why should the IRS go through a lot of work to make your return slightly easier, when they're benefiting from having you self-report?

    If your answers don't match what they already know, they can fine you up the wazoo, charge back interest, etc. Much more profitable and less work.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:22PM (#30880258)
    The tax filing and preparation industry, of which Intuit is a part, has long been an obstacle to any change in the tax code that would serve to simplify and reduce the need for their services. However, they are far from the only special interest group with an incentive to keep the US Tax code as complex, opaque, and unintuitive as possible. The tax attorneys who help the wealthy arrange their affairs to minimize taxes under the complex rules, the Federal Law Enforcement agencies who periodically use the tax code as a tool to prosecute those who they cannot otherwise charge (i.e. organized crime, income from illegal activities, etc) and of course the tax accountants who work at all levels as guides through the byzantine labyrinth of the US tax codes. Each of these groups, and especially the attorneys (who are the number 1 contributors to the Democratic Party btw), lobbies vigorously against any change in the law which they perceive to be a threat to their ongoing and profitable stream of revenue. Few things in life are as certain as death and taxes after all and one would be hard pressed to think of a more stable source of revenue, as an attorney or tax industry insider, than a system mandated by the Federal Government that every American must use at least once per year.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Eil (82413)

      The tax filing and preparation industry, of which Intuit is a part, has long been an obstacle to any change in the tax code that would serve to simplify and reduce the need for their services. However, they are far from the only special interest group with an incentive to keep the US Tax code as complex, opaque, and unintuitive as possible.

      I see what you did there.

  • Intuit are evil ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by aegl (1041528) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:52PM (#30880668)

    Just got a pop-up from Quicken 2007 telling me that it will cease down-loading data from my bank at the end of April. If I want to keep being able to do this, then I'll have to upgrade to Quicken 2010.

    This is the second time that Intuit have made an incompatible change to the download data format (at least while I've been using it). So I'm going to assume that their business plan now includes a forced upgrade every three or so years. Time to start researching non-evil alternatives.

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