Software maker fights simplified tax filing

If you congressman really wanted your vote he'd find a way to make tax filing easier. (AP Photo)

If you congressman really wanted your vote he'd find a way to make tax filing easier. (AP Photo)

No one likes doing their income taxes. Slackers who wait until today, the final day to file without risk of financial penalty, seem to hate it even more.

The problem with taxes is that the laws are needlessly complex.

Some complications are probably necessary to promote fairness. Poor Americans, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, should be “exempt all from taxation below a certain point” and the wealthy should be taxed at “higher portions” as their wealth increases.

Jefferson, no fan of big government or big business, also warned future generations of “the selfish spirit of commerce that knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.”

That warning hits home when reading a ProPublica article that says at least one manufacturer of tax prep software is lobbying against simpler tax returns.

The article points out that Intuit, the company that makes TurboTax, spent at least $2.6 million lobbying Congress. Some of that effort went to fight a plan to implement “return-free filing,” which would make it possible for millions of Americans to file their incomes taxes in a couple of minutes without using a tax preparer or tax software.

The idea has been around awhile, and has been endorsed by Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

Proponents of return-free filing say it would save Americans $2 billion annually. It already saves money in several other countries.

But it would also cost Intuit, who declined to answer ProPublica’s questions, some customers.

According to ProPublica, Intuit hired lobbyists and public relations firms to convince community leaders to write letters to newspapers and other publications that blasted return-free filing. The letters used similar language and some writers did not know they were being manipulated by paid professionals.

One letter writer, the president of the NAACP Delaware State Conference, was told by an “acquaintance” that return-free filing would end free tax filing help in low-income communities. The NAACP leader wrote a letter to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and encouraged other local NAACP leaders to write similar letters.

The NAACP leader was shocked to learn his friend was a paid lobbyist. “We may have to retract … ,” Richard Smith said. “I didn’t question her.”

Some people contacted by lobbyists did their own research.

Angela Martin, director of an Oregon nonprofit, said a PR professional gave her a sample anti-return-free filing letter last year for her organization to send to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

She was skeptical, and learned the PR firm represented Intuit.

She’s now a supporter of return-free filing and wrote a public letter supporting any change that would “reduce the cost and complexity of complying with federal tax law.”

A nice idea, but who is going to pay the lobbyists to get Congress to pass laws that make things easier on Americans?

reduce the cost and complexity of complying with federal tax law. – See more at: http://www.blueoregon.com/2014/04/return-free-filing-good-oregonians/#sthash.IBCDmtLT.dpuf

40 comments Add your comment

BenDaho

April 15th, 2014
10:58 am

Lobbyist: Paid consultant to influence legislation to pass laws that allow companies to fleece the population out of money for gain to company being represented.
Lobbying needs to be outlawed.

Observer

April 15th, 2014
11:16 am

ProPublica is largely or entirely funded by foreign leftist George Soros. Are we to be surprised that it advocates income redistribution?

Or that an AJC columnist credits its far-left views on taxation?

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
11:24 am

Observer – You are wrong about “largely or entirely funded” by George Soros, though his Open Societies Foundation is a contributor to ProPublica. If you have a problem with any FACTS in the story, let me know and we can discuss them.

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
11:26 am

Further research indicates the Soros org donates $125,000 a year, while the former chief executives of Golden West Financial Corporation donate $10 million a year to ProPublica.

Jack ®

April 15th, 2014
11:41 am

Ah yes. Tax the wealthy. And provide more free stuff. Sounds like an Obama plan.

Nice

April 15th, 2014
11:47 am

“Observer” just got owned. Well played George.

SBinF

April 15th, 2014
11:58 am

“Are we to be surprised that it advocates income redistribution?”

Yeah, and I suppose Thomas Jefferson was a big time tax-and-spend liberal too?

Dwight Schrutt

April 15th, 2014
11:59 am

Haha! Observer. Don’t let the facts get in the way of your conspiracy theories.

I agree with Nice. Well played George.

Simon Says

April 15th, 2014
12:06 pm

“A nice idea, but who is going to pay the lobbyists to get Congress to pass laws that make things easier on Americans?”

Yeah that’s right.

Can anyone out there tell me why we can’t vote on-line.

We can:

1. Shop
2. Bank
3. Get an education
4. Make travel and lodging accomidations
6. Communicate

But we can’t vote on-line. Does this make any sense?

No it does not – but how can we (congress) allow Americans to vote on-line when someone needs to check IDs or we need to continue to suppress voter participation.

Wow

Simon Says

April 15th, 2014
12:12 pm

Simon Says…

No to:

1. Obamacare
2. Immigration Reform
3. Gun Control
4. Taxes

Simon Says yes to:

1. Obamacare
2. Immigration Reform
3. Gun Control
4. Taxes

You see Simon can’t make up his mind – but for the right price he can.

LOL :)

LOBBYIST RULE………………………..

Roekest

April 15th, 2014
12:37 pm

If Intuit is against it, I’m for it. For the past 2 years, I’ve gotten lower returns than what TurboTax calculated (and error-checked, mind you) I should get. But because the errors were made by me due to confusing language, TurboTax will not honor their Error-Free guarantee. Isn’t that what they promise to do: find errors you made and fix them? Screw Intuit and screw TurboTax.

coj

April 15th, 2014
12:45 pm

So, Observer, not paying a fee for filing your taxes online is a leftist plot? You don’t mind paying a fee to file your taxes but don’t want to pay your taxes? Nothing contradictory there, huh?

And, Jack®, you’d reduce the taxes on the wealthy who can afford them but raise them on the poor who can’t? How Jesus of you.

Observer

April 15th, 2014
1:13 pm

Here’s what the watchdog group Foundation Watch has to say about Herb and Marion Sandler, two of George Soros’ fellow leftists helping fund ProPublica:

“Herbert and Marion Sandler made their fortune by purchasing a humble California savings and loan called World Savings for $4 million in 1963 and building it into mighty Golden West Financial Corp., one of the largest home mortgage lenders in the country. In 2006, they lost Golden West, which had over $125 billion in assets, to Wachovia for $24 billion. Wachovia, which made the terrible decision to purchase the company’s portfolio of subprime loans, teetered on the edge of bankruptcy when the housing market collapsed. It reported losing $24 billion in the third quarter of 2008 and was subsequently acquired by Wells Fargo at the end of 2008 for a paltry $12.7 billion.”

“Having gotten out of the market at precisely the right time, the Sandlers are flush with cash, and they are throwing mountains of money around in an effort to make America more liberal.”

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
1:26 pm

Observer — you are quoting a conservative think tank’s opinion. In my opinion you can trust the reporting of ProPublica, despite where they get their funding.

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
1:27 pm

Observer

April 15th, 2014
1:59 pm

George, is it just “opinion” that the Sandlers owned and then sold at great profit a financial institution later found to have a toxic load of subprime loans in its portfolio? Or just “opinion” that they, along with Soros, fund a slew of liberal advocacy groups?

And when Fox News reports something you like—does it similarly get your approval?

Observer

April 15th, 2014
2:03 pm

… And are you aware Fox News has more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined? And that it continues to increase its market share … while the AJC continues to lose subscribers?

Sluggo

April 15th, 2014
2:24 pm

There’s a very good reason, Simon Says, why allowing online voting would be unwise.

How hard is it for you to imagine Democrats, say, opening inner-city locales which sit residents down in front of computer terminals—at $50 per vote—while party apparatchiks confirm they make the paid-for election choices? Ditto for union authorization votes at work places.

That’s why our “secret ballot” system was invented.

Hillary's Food Taster

April 15th, 2014
2:30 pm

The federal form is simplicity itself compared to the Georgia form. Favorite question from previous Georgia Tax form: “Have you paid your intangible tax? If not, why not?” Pondered it for a long while. Only intangible I could think of was ghosts haunting my house. So decided to answer: Because I don’t know what it is and you won’t tell me in this collection of poorly formed sentences known as Georgia Form 500 and/or instructions. Used to use tax preparation software and the tax preparations services. Now fill it out by hand in pencil to make life as difficult as possible for anyone choosing to examine my return.

Jack Mehoff

April 15th, 2014
2:57 pm

Observer…you shouldnt compare Fox News ratings to CNN to compare the growth or decline of one party versus another. You should compare Fox News to Judge Joe Brown and Real housewives.

Jack Mehoff

April 15th, 2014
2:59 pm

You reduce taxes on the rich in an attempt to lure more rich people to a tax base. High tax rates chase away high tax bases.

Observer

April 15th, 2014
3:15 pm

That’s loser talk, Jack. Sour grapes stuff.

CNN and MSNBC cater exclusively to the mere 20 percent nationwide who identify themselves as liberal in political polls.

As for high tax rates—what they really chase away is INVESTMENT and JOBS. But they do initially get votes for the class-warfare types espousing them.

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
3:17 pm

Observer – I link to Fox News stories all the time. Once again, if you have a problem with the FACTS of the story, let me know. I don’t have time to defend every person who has made a charitable contribution to an organization you don’t like.

HypoRICHT

April 15th, 2014
3:29 pm

LOL. George with his tail between his legs.

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
3:34 pm

I’m the only person here using their real name, so I don’t think it is me that has his tail between his legs.

Observer

April 15th, 2014
3:37 pm

Yeah, now that you mention it—I have a problem with the story’s basic premise.

Only 55-60% of earners pay any federal income tax at all. That leaves the rest to be in favor of all sorts of welfare giveaways they will likely be receiving BUT NOT PAYING FOR. And the income tax is, by far, the federal government’s main revenue source.

By the way, Thomas Jefferson was an “enthusiastic” slave owner, Especially when it came to good-looking female slaves.

joe

April 15th, 2014
3:40 pm

If you really wanna simplify things,abolish the IRS and put in some sort of flat or fair tax…case closed.

MoFaux

April 15th, 2014
3:42 pm

Sluggo:”That’s why our “secret ballot” system was invented.”

So, you’re saying our founding fathers were time-traveling demagogues that spewed hatred upon anyone that disagreed with them? Interesting.

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
3:44 pm

Observer has a PhD in ad hominem attacks, clearly. Almost everyone is obligated to FILE TAXES and this is what this story is about … making that process easier.

MoFaux

April 15th, 2014
3:48 pm

George, you’re giving him WAY too much credit. A PhD? :-)

Observer

April 15th, 2014
4:07 pm

Gee, George, guess that third and fourth paragraph of yours somehow got slipped in without you noticing? (Your editor’s after all a big proponent of income redistribution.)

And do you have a degree yourself?

Wife of Observer

April 15th, 2014
4:13 pm

Forgive my husband. He thinks newspapers should be objective and non-partisan — and is probably reacting to the AJC’s incessant cheer leading for Obama and the Democrats.

ROFLMAO

April 15th, 2014
4:13 pm

(George Mathis): “Proceed Observer”

That’s classic stuff right there!

ROFLMAO

April 15th, 2014
4:23 pm

I personally like using TurboTax. Without it I would have a heck of a time getting my taxes done. Having said that, I can see how they would be upset with simplified tax code. Cuts into their profits. More of that warning from Jefferson. Having said all that…

..It has to be one GOD AWFUL EXISTENCE to live every single STINKIN’ day of your life being consumed with rubber stamping every single STINKIN’ thing with the scarlett letter of ‘D’ or ‘R’, ‘L’, ‘C’ or any of that nonsense. I am particularly flabbergasted at the Fox heads though, because I do take it in. The indoctrination is off the charts. You know it because you see and hear it, then you see and hear it come from people’s mouths without any hesitation (or independent research) whatsoever. Totally baffling.

Wife of Observer

April 15th, 2014
4:24 pm

I think if George would merely point out the number of times the AJC hasn’t endorsed the Democrat nominees for Georgia governor and U.S. president—that might silence critics.

How about it, George?

Will

April 15th, 2014
4:46 pm

Wife of Observer, maybe the AJC endorsed candidates who are fair maybe the editors for the AJC are well read and care about the poor and inequalities, maybe just maybe the AJC believes in fairness and not what a bunch of talking head at FOX Entertainment has to say

Bumper

April 15th, 2014
4:49 pm

Joe @ 3:30pm said “If you really wanna simplify things,abolish the IRS and put in some sort of flat or fair tax…”

If only it was that simple. There will always be a tax collector regardless of what tax system is in place. Call it the Happy Joy Joy Service if that makes you feel better.

And don’t hold your breath waiting for “fair” or “flat” or some other scheme conjured up by a radio talk show host. The reality is that our massive government obligations and programs have to be funded and the income tax system we have in place is what will feed the monster – for years and years to come.

Alstair

April 15th, 2014
4:53 pm

members of congress are in the pocket of the big money—they will do nothing to help regular people that the big money doesn’t want—very simple. Corrupt–to the core.

George Mathis

April 15th, 2014
5:12 pm

Thanks for playing everyone, I am cutting off commenting so I can leave work.

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