We all know that the income tax code stinks. It is a byzantine maze of complicated forms and soul-sucking bureaucracy that we all have to deal with in the spring of every year.
Because the tax code is so complicated, an entire industry has been created to help people file their taxes. And perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that some in that industry are fighting efforts to make the tax code easier to comply with.
Proposals to let U.S. taxpayers get a statement from the government that’s already filled in with their financial information have been under attack by Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, according to ProPublica. The nonprofit newsroom says several people took a stand against the proposal in a grass-roots campaign that Intuit orchestrated.
The proposed “return-free” system would simplify the filing process by using information the federal government receives from banks and employers. It’s used in parts of Europe and in a California pilot program. Critics warn, though, that such a system might ignore tax credits and incorporate errors. And tax preparation companies such as Intuit say it would hurt their business.
The ProPublica article is by Liz Day, who also wrote about the campaign against return-free filing last year. She says she looked into the campaign after noticing “remarkably similar language” being used to weigh in on a “remarkably obscure topic.”
I’m not sure I like this specific policy – the last thing we need is to further disconnect Americans from the realities of the income tax code – but whether the policy is good or not, the cynicism involved in a company fighting to keep the tax code more complicated than necessary in order to profit from that complexity is remarkable.
Perhaps you TurboTax users should rethink whom you’re patronizing.