Mic: How tax prep companies conspired to make filing your taxes so damn hard
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan called for a simple tax filing system under which most people would not have to fill out a tax return. Instead, they’d just receive a form from the IRS showing their refund or tax liability. In 2010, a White House advisory board proposed the same idea, noting that Americans spend billions of hours and hundreds of billions of dollars annually preparing their taxes. In 2019, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also proposed a free, easy filing system that would allow the bulk of taxpayers to avoid the unpleasantness of filling out returns that are dozens of pages long, with complicated sheets of instructions. She’s recently been promoting that bill again, ahead of Tax Day 2021.
With such a long history of support from across the political spectrum, why hasn’t America followed the lead of dozens of other countries in adopting a simple, government-run system for paying taxes?
The answer is simple and infuriating: the power of the tax preparation industry. Much like a public option in health care, a public tax filing option would save many people across the country significant time and money. But it doesn’t get created because powerful corporate interests don’t want to dent their profits.