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Frustrated woman working on tax return.
How much easier would April 15 be every year if you had the option to get a pre-filled tax return from the government which you would just have to review for accuracy, sign, and return—for free—to complete your taxes? The federal government, after all, gets all that information from your employers and from your financial institutions. That's how it's done in a handful of European companies, and how presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama think you should be able to file.

Who doesn't think this is a good idea? Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, who stand to lose a lot of money if tax return filing was made so easy. That's why the company is behind a fake grassroots campaign, duping prominent activists to lobby against it.

Over the last year, a rabbi, a state NAACP official, a small town mayor and other community leaders wrote op-eds and letters to Congress with remarkably similar language on a remarkably obscure topic.

Each railed against a long-standing proposal that would give taxpayers the option to use pre-filled tax returns. They warned that the program would be a conflict of interest for the IRS and would especially hurt low-income people, who wouldn't have the resources to fight inaccurate returns. Rabbi Elliot Dorff wrote in a Jewish Journal op-ed that he "shudder[s] at the impact this program will have on the most vulnerable people in American society." […]

Rabbi Dorff says he was approached by a former student, Emily Pflaster, who sent him details and asked him to write an op-ed alerting the Jewish community to the threat.

What Pflaster did not tell him is that she works for a PR and lobbying firm with connections to Intuit, the maker of best-selling tax software TurboTax.

"I wish she would have told me that," Dorff told ProPublica.

Richard Smith, the president of the NAACP Delaware State Conference, is another of those letter writers. He was approached by a longtime acquaintance—who also happened to be a lobbyist—who convinced him to write to Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) about how the proposal could hurt low-income people. Now Smith says he's looking into the issue now that he knows why he was being pushed to write the letter, and "may have to retract so far based on my research."

Proposals in Congress would make the program completely voluntary, and tens of millions of people who have simple returns could use it to file quickly, easily, and for free. And Intuit has spent millions lobbying against the idea in the last decade. "TurboTax products and services made up 35 percent of Intuit's $4.2 billion in total revenues" in 2012.

So, happy tax day, America. Intuit thanks its customers for their support by making sure they have to keep paying them as well as Uncle Sam.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Filing taxes should be more intuitive! (8+ / 0-)

    (Yes, I do the TurboTax thingy....)

    Me:
    Feds -- I owe $799
    State -- I'm getting back $125

    15% bracket, paying 8.5% in taxes, according to the final numbers computed by TurboTax.

    My taxes went up this year, due to my slight salary increase, wife's increase in Social Security income, and some decent capital gains, etc.

    Despite spending almost two nights itemizing deductions, I did not quite have enough to make it worthwhile, and the standard deductions were larger for us this year.

    So, how'd you do with your taxes?

    Any group with the word "Patriot" in its name, probably isn't.

    by Senor Unoball on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:19:11 PM PDT

    •  Still have to file last year's state form... (4+ / 0-)

      ...extensions for this year, and my wife has to deal with her father's taxes, and her mother's last tax return (she died late last year). When we move to the farm, my sister-in-law gets to deal with it.

      I asked Calamity Jean last night what she thought it would take to tweak enough that we actually broke even and had no refund, or owed a small amount. She thought it would be more work than it was worth, despite the fact that a refund is an interest-free loan to the government (and look at what you get for it!).

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:26:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You need to learn to love the rope (0+ / 0-)

        a phrase survivors of Vietnam's prisoner of war camps used to describe who they remained relatively sane in the face of a tortuous experience.

        Yes, IRS can torture you...and you can make the torture fun!

        As to the actual question raised by the diary I would be against it. All it takes is a visit to your local library where you will find a room; its walls filled with shelves, and the shelves filled with IRS tax code.

        Left to its own devices the IRS isn't going to tweak your form with all the deductions you are entitled to. What's worse they may take information from firms that help you with investments and consider only what you received when you sold the stock and not what it cost you to buy it.

        That's why there is the room full of IRS information and forms. Its on line as well, but you don't get the full effect until you see it all printed out.

        Read why the conductor on a train is allowed to deduct his travel expense for a daily ride back and forth but you are not allowed to deduct the same expense for your commute unless you do a couple of simple things to qualify.

        Read why, if you work overseas for nine months straight once, you may never need to pay income taxes again.

        Read why, if your home is a farm, or engaged in farming, you like the Republican congressmen who wrote the law may be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tax breaks and subsidies for the schedule F expenses of your operations instead of just the schedule C expenses you probably already use.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 10:47:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Same-sex "married filing jointly" at long last (19+ / 0-)

      Woo hoo!   Even though as two relatively high wage-earners, we don't save a dime -- quite the reverse, we pay the dreaded "marriage penalty".  

      I thought that might happen, and it did:  our combined returns were about $2000 less than they have been in other years. But I don't care.  I'm happy to pay it, when it means that federal recognition of my marriage is a reality.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:41:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We paid more than most people earn, (7+ / 0-)

      but what did we get for it? Infrastructure improvements? Healthy food for our less fortunate neighbors? Single payer health care?

      Nope, just a tire for an F-35.

    •  I did all right (7+ / 0-)

      I bought my first house in September and was able to itemize for the first time. I could only deduct a few months of mortgage interest and had to pro-rate the real estate property taxes for the time I was living in the house, which seems fair. I am eagerly awaiting the 2015 tax season when I get to deduct a full years worth of everything!

      I've always gotten a refund since I've started working, I intentionally have 1 less withholding than required on my W4 to ensure that. I know, interest free loan to the gov and all that, but I like getting the big check once a year. If I adjusted my W4 to the correct number and got an extra $50 a paycheck or whatever, I know I wouldn't save it and would blow it on small things I don't really need. This way, I get one big refund and blow it on a big thing I don't really need ;)

      "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

      by yg17 on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:48:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree, it's so hard to find the discipline to save (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Senor Unoball

        and the little piddling amount of interest I would get for a traditional savings account is not at all worth giving up the automatic out-of-sight-out-of-mind savings plan that comes with a fat IRS return.

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:11:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, right now while (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Senor Unoball, Be Skeptical

        interest rates are low.....

        you might earn $10 on $10,000 in a year.

        Not worth it under current rates so no loss on your part.

        -6.13 -4.4 Where are you? Take the Test!!!

        by MarciaJ720 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:41:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The "loss" is in not saving. (0+ / 0-)

          eom

          •  That is true, but I have a pretty well funded 401k (0+ / 0-)

            that I contribute to each pay period (and my employer matches some) and also transfer some of every paycheck to a savings account for short term saving, so I treat my tax return as money that I can blow on whatever I want. My tax refund is paying for a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest this year, might as well get that out of the way while I'm young, single, childless and have a fully functioning liver ;)

            "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

            by yg17 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:44:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  You could set up an automatic transfer of money to (0+ / 0-)

        a Roth IRA or other retirement account with a very low cost firm like Vanguard. Or many banks can set up monthly purchases of I-bonds. There are many options.

    •  Feds $1600, 3 states: $100, $35, and $0 rebates. (3+ / 0-)

      Next year, my taxes will be much simpler.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:50:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  $800 to the federal government, $125 back from (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Senor Unoball

        the State of Ohio.  If I was rich, and my family income was over $250k, I would get back $6,000, thanks to the Taft and Kasich tax cuts for the rich, and tax shifting to the middle and poor wage earners.

        Republicans are like alligators. All mouth and no ears.

        by Ohiodem1 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:18:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Grrr.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MarciaJ720, Senor Unoball

      W-2 from one state, 1099 from another.

      It cost me over $500 to get my taxes done this year!

      $275 back from Fed
      $675 back from NC
      Owe CA $34.

      H&R Block, TurboTax, even the fly-by-night mom and pop places are making small fortunes off people during tax season.

      Only W-2's for me from here on out.

      It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness- Unknown -7.50, -5.03

      by dawgflyer13 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:03:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm getting back (0+ / 0-)

      about 1300 federal, 200 Missouri, and owed (and paid) nothing for Colorado. Although I spent an extra $20 for the Colorado module to H&R Block rather than trying to figure out the 4 forms I needed to file for my no taxes.

  •  Turbotax already has a Free edition for 1040EZ (17+ / 0-)

    though I suppose even on the free Federal returns they make a good profit with the extra fee for State returns.

    It seems to me that really only the 1040 EZ filers would be benefitted by the pre-filled scheme describe.  

    It certainly wouldn't pertain to anyone who itemizes deductions, because the IRS has no advance way of knowing how many receipts you've been stockpiling for your professional expenses, etc.

    Surely the vast majority of Turbotax users DO buy the higher-cost Deluxe or Small Business editions.  They wouldn't lose any revenue from all those folks, only for people with the simplest possible financial circumstances.  And even then, how would they be losing if those customers currently use a Free edition?  

    I guess I'm confused by why the company would need or want an Astroturf operation for this.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:25:02 PM PDT

    •  This seems more plausible to me (6+ / 0-)

      Even if you itemize deductions, your information is at least somewhat copied over from year to year, leaving you to make changes as needed.

      It's not that I doubt Intuit and other makers of tax prep software would be capable of instituting a campaign such as described; it's that I simply don't see the point of it. Most people who are likely to pay for the software as a means of saving money (believe me I was enormously skeptical of it initially) would almost certainly continue doing so.

    •  You seem to doubt the veracity of the diary (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, ncarolinagirl, Adam B, saluda, TKO333

      It is widely known in the tax community that Intuit has been leading the charge on opposing pre-filled tax return information.  They oppose it because it threatens their business, and their lobbying (and their expenditures to lobby) are a matter of public record.

      More information is at

      http://www.propublica.org/...

      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

      by Old Left Good Left on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:34:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Another good article on this (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp, Odysseus

        "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

        by Old Left Good Left on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:41:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My point is not that the diary is incorrect (5+ / 0-)

        but rather that I would like to understand WHY it's correct.  

         I can't figure out where pre-filled forms would really hurt Intuit's bottom line, given that pre-filled forms are most relevant for folks who don't itemize and already use a free edition.

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:41:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  As far behind technologically as the US Gov't is (0+ / 0-)

        and as prone to error as they and their records are, who in their right mind would trust them with something as complicated as this?

        Plus, a person who can't even figure out how to complete a 1040EZ probably wouldn't even be able to catch the mistakes they'd wind up paying for.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

        by Neuroptimalian on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 07:50:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's no reason for it to be complicated. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp
          who in their right mind would trust them with something as complicated as this?
          Many people have nothing but a W2.  That's as simple as it gets.

          -7.75 -4.67

          "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

          There are no Christians in foxholes.

          by Odysseus on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:56:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting which errors you assume. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Adam B, lgmcp, elfling

          As opposed to the ones we can prove.

          IRS.gov: EITC Participation Rate by States

          In cooperation with the Census Bureau, the IRS estimates that nationally 79% (TY2010 data) of all eligible taxpayers receive the EITC (a range of 78% to 80%) –implying that approximately 21% do not claim the credit they deserve.
          I volunteered for years for a program whose explicit goal was to drive EITC participation up.

          -7.75 -4.67

          "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

          There are no Christians in foxholes.

          by Odysseus on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:01:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A couple of years ago (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Odysseus

            I tried not to claim the EITC because I felt I wasn't really who it was intended to go to.  I got a nasty letter from the IRS saying I should have claimed it, and that they've gone ahead and deposited the extra money in my checking account.  And to make sure to claim it in the future if I am eligible.  So I do.  I don't qualify for it every year, and didn't this year, but still owed $0 federal with zero non SS/Medicare withholding.  And yet every year I somehow owe Pennsylvania several hundred bucks despite the fact that I do get PA tax withheld on my paycheck.

            •  Earned Income Credit (0+ / 0-)

              Re your situation:
              A famous jurist (I think it was Learned Hand, correct me if I'm wrong) once wrote "Taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions.To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant."
              If the government created a tax credit that you feel you don't think you deserve- that's your good fortune.Who's to say who deserves what?

      •  I don't see how this could be possible. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp

        I do taxes, and about a quarter of my clients are self-employed. How is Uncle Sam going to peer into their cash registers and populate their tax forms? And their business expenses - would they just be disallowed? I don't see how an automatic form is going to know if you use your car 20% for business or 80%.

        Most Americans only have W2 income - but it's not a vast majority. Lots and lots of people have more things going on that couldn't possibly fit into a ready-made tax return. Unless we drastically rewrite the tax code - to make self-employment tax-free, or to make it illegal - I don't see how you make this work.

        Oops - clients at the door!

        Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

        by Boundegar on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:46:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  They're thinking long term. (6+ / 0-)

      If the first step is simplified taxes for some, the next step is for most, and then for all. That kills the personal income tax business. Then corporations start agitating for simplified taxes. That kills the business income tax business, the CPA industry, the business accounting software industry .........

      You have to stamp out these thing when they're small or they'll grow to be too big to stop.

      If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

      by edg on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:51:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Had the same question. I use TaxAct, free federal (7+ / 0-)

      filing even for the long form, but there is a fee for the state return and of course the option to upgrade on the fed form which imports info from previous years and saves a lot of tedious data entry, so I bite on that every year.  Still... got my long form federal and state taxes done for $22.  Not bad, in my opinion.

      "A man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.." - Teddy Roosevelt -8.12, -5.18

      by ncarolinagirl on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 08:00:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  22 dollars is a major bargain, places like HR (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grover, mattc129, lgmcp

        Block charge over 200 dollars even for very simple tax returns with few deductions and quite easy to do.  

        Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at http://keystoneliberalsforum.aimoo.com/

        by wishingwell on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:12:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I use TaxAct too (0+ / 0-)

        CA has free e-filing for many taxpayers on its website, so i used to always do that too and pay nothing. The last couple years, though, I've been biting on TaxAct's state module just to save time. Long form, with a bunch of itemized deductions and extra forms, both state and federal done in less than an hour for about $15 total.

        "They say you've revolutionised American politics merely by not being dumb." -Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka

        by Matt W on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:51:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  In my state, there's a state software (0+ / 0-)

        system for taxes online.  So I have sometimes used the free version from H&R Block (or whoever) and then did the state taxes at the free state site.  The problem is of course, as you stated that I have to enter in all the data again at the state site!

        Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort. - Voltaire
        Don't trust anyone over 84414 - BentLiberal

        by BentLiberal on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 01:13:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  if you qualify for a 1040EZ, you qualify (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      saluda, DeanObama, elfling

      for free state filing as well. that's how I did my son's taxes this year, and e-filing them cost me nothing.

      go on your state's Dept. of Taxation/Revenue web site, and look for a "Free Filing" option. I can almost guarantee your state has one.

      to the issue at hand:

      I don't blame Intuit for trying to keep their business model going, I blame these people who failed to do any kind of due diligence, before flapping their jaws. given their overt failure to recognize that they, and their organizations, were being conned, the membership of those entities might want to give serious thought to replacing them, in those leadership positions.

    •  Free File online: (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Adam B, Be Skeptical, lgmcp, elfling

      IRS.gov online filing

      Seems to me that Intuit has to compete with other filing companies for the simplest returns. So offer that service free. Then when (if) they stat making more money, you have a loyal customer.

      I've never used Free File myself. But the service (which includes extensions) is pretty convenient, if you qualify -- and if your state is included too.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:51:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I just used Free File (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grover, lgmcp, elfling

        After filling out the downloadable PDFs from the IRS (which are pretty nice), I used Free File and had to fill out all the forms again.

        It took me a while to get Schedule E to automatically "do the math" until I realized that there was a blank where I had to to manually do the math myself.

        The most frustrating part of the Free File experience was filling out W-2 forms. That's a lot of data entry for a form that the IRS has already received from my employers.

        The Republican plan is always the same old trickle-down, on-your-own, special-interests-first, country-club, voodoo economics.
        Donate to Oxfam America for the famine in east Africa.

        by JayC on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:30:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good to know. Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp

          I tell people to check it out often. Now I can tell them what to expect.

          © grover


          So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

          by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:35:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  A way around the costly state returns (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, elfling

      Most of the major tax software companies do offer the free federal return.

      Last year, for a mostly straightforward return I did for a relative,  I used the free federal online from H&R Block. I skipped buying the state form and used the California's free online form instead.  The only downside is that with H&R Block, the would have copied all the info over automatically. In my case I had to re-enter it all on the state site. But didn't have to spend any money.

      Also, I do volunteer tax preparation for low-income tax-payers. We try to get them credits and deductions they may not know about. Credits like the earned-income credit, which if for the working-poor  and educational credits, etc

      Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort. - Voltaire
      Don't trust anyone over 84414 - BentLiberal

      by BentLiberal on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 01:00:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am inspired by how many kossacks volunteer (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BentLiberal, elfling

        to do tax preparation assistance, ACA navigation, school tutoring, and the like.  As it is I'm letting my workaholic job detract from family and personal time and I need to get a grip.  But when I can get there, hopefully before too long, I'd like that grip to include time for community service.

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 01:11:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hear you. It's hard to donate time (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp, elfling

          when you work a lot. We all just do what we can do, whether it's giving money, signing petitions or volunteering, or what have you

          Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort. - Voltaire
          Don't trust anyone over 84414 - BentLiberal

          by BentLiberal on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 01:16:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Turbo Tax can't be alone in this venture (10+ / 0-)

    There was a huge industry dedicated to helping you with your taxes long before TT was founded.  Remember H&R Block?  And there are dozens of tax lobbyists spending a lot of time insuring that the tax code stays complex for the unique benefit of their corporate customers who might not be in the tax prep business.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:30:31 PM PDT

    •  Not just turbo tax (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      markdd

      But they are part of the industry that convinces the public that the IRS is somehow stealing our money, and given better tax preparation we can get it back. This is true for some people, but Turbo Tax or a average tax preparer is not really going get a bigger refund for the average person, at least no legally.  Turbo tax at least offers some protection, but if you lie I assume there is no protection.

      In the larger industry it is all about refunds and fees that transfer those refunds from the tax payer to preparer, and this is where I see the real problem.  These campaigns make people believe that more refunds are out there, and TT is part of this.  Preparers who take part of the refunds as fees want to maximize refunds, even by fraud.  It is not always possible to find the preparer, so the taxpayer is liable for fines when preparers fudge the return.  Even if the return is honest, there are no limits to the fees that can be charged.  TT, by advertising based on refund, is contributing to this problem.

      In one way TT is an improvement.  As part of the compromise to prevent the IRS from prefilling tax returns, TT and others give free tax return preparation and filing. This is good because everyone should file a tax return every year, even if they do not owe taxes or get a refund.  H&R Block, and other firms, cannot do this because it costs them real money for a human preparer.  As a result, in the old days, I know of at least one case where H&R Block told someone that they did not need to file a tax return, which was accurate.  H&R block did not want to deal with customer because there would be no refund.  However, a few years later, the decision not to file lead to an audit and great costs in lawyer fees due to unrelated events.

      So yes, the old time tax firms are probably more evil than TT.  But is still a racket overall.  When I had complex taxes, I retained an accountant for a couple hundred dollars.  Kept up with records, filed a not to complex return, best money I every spent.

      •  Got burned on the fees this year (0+ / 0-)

        $50 for the S/W, $25 for filing State taxes, $35 for not having a credit card, so that they could set up a temporary bank account, siphon off their fees, then transfer the remainder to my bank account.  Jokes on them, Feds are going to garnish my taxes anyway...

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:36:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Preposterous. Nobody has all knowledge of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, JeffW, karmsy, Mother Shipper

    your financial transactions but you.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:30:59 PM PDT

    •  Folks who don't itemize (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, pasadena beggar, Adam B

      and wouldn't benefit from itemizing, are a pretty good percentage of the population, though, arent' they?  

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:44:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Roughly 2/3 do not itemize. (8+ / 0-)

        IRS.gov: Tax Stats at a Glance

        Percent that claim itemized deductions (TY 2011) [3]  31.8%

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:54:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know, and how about self employed and (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp, Mother Shipper, FindingMyVoice

        myriads of other wrinkles. The government doesn't know that you are a mere wage earner without enough deductions to itemize and with no casualty or theft losses or capital gains or losses until you tell them so.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 06:36:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  People like this will always file custom returns. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Adam B

          That's not the point.

          Many people know going in, as they start their returns, that they're wage earners and don't have enough deductions to itemize. This directly affects them.

          © grover


          So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

          by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:58:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The people know, not the government. *This* (0+ / 0-)

            directly effects everybody, they, and not the government know their own particulars. The idea that the entire tax code and various parts of our system of justice should be completely re- written because some with simple returns choose to hire H&R Block or use Intuit rather than do it themselves is beyond incredible.

            That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

            by enhydra lutris on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:16:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No one's rewriting anything (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              grover, TKO333

              They're just suggesting a simpler filing option for people.

            •  Huh? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Adam B, lgmcp, elfling

              I buy the super duper version of Turbo Tax because that's what I need for my taxes.

              But I do taxes for family members.

              I can import their wages and interest info directly. They take the standard deduction. Poof! They're done.

              If I were not doing their taxes, they'd have to buy their own Turbo Tax package.

              They are PERFECT candidates for the new law.

              Me? I wouldn't use it. My taxes are too complicated.

              It's not going to be mandatory for every taxpayer. It's going to be there for those who want it.

              You don't understand why the tax code is being rewritten for the percentage of filers who don't use paid preparers.

              Well, first, the IRS prefers returns that are not handwritten. Second, technology. Sometimes, it makes sense to change laws to keep up with technology. We now have reliable import technology.

              Third, why the heck does our tax code currently reflect reflect preference for  segment of the tax preparation industry?

              Why do you prefer that a percentage of an industry is preferred over a percentage of the citizenry?

              © grover


              So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

              by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:46:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry, if their returns are that simple they can (0+ / 0-)

                easily do them without software. Meanwhile the "new law" requires a complete revision of the tax code.

                Breaking!! The IRS doesn't known anybody's complete financial activity or history for any period, even those for which returns have been filed. They cannot prepare a complete return without that knowledge. End-of-transmission.

                That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                by enhydra lutris on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 03:08:32 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  As I said, IRS (0+ / 0-)

                  strongly prefers returns that aren't handwritten.

                  Manually prepared returns are more likely to have errors that harm taxpayers.

                  Not everyone has the math skills (and language skills) you assume. Some people dropped out of school. Some finished school but got lousy educations. Some have cognitive limitations. Some are immigrants, but wow, even non-citizens have to pay taxes.

                  So let's stop assuming that everyone can sit down with a calculator and whip out their taxes.

                  If the IRS doesn't have your info, then you can't use an auto-fill return. Simple as that. But for many filers, it will make life so much easier.

                  The tax code is changed ALL the freaking time. But usually, it's changed to protect everyone but the little guy.

                  I really really don't understand why you've dug in so deep on this.

                  Will it make life perfect for everyone? No.

                  But no law does.

                  But it's a start.

                  © grover


                  So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

                  by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 05:59:45 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It's really persnickety work (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    grover

                    and so easy to transpose a digit or put a number on the wrong line.

                    It's also nice to be able to have a digital copy, if you're in to that, that can be reprinted whenever you need one.

                    One of my objections to the current "free filing" arrangements with the IRS is that some of those companies are just freaking predators. We chose one at random for my mom's taxes and I am appalled by all the ways it tries to extract money from her, for "audit insurance" and by charging if you come in by typing the link instead of starting at irs.gov and by obscuring your tax form PDF so you can't easily save a digital copy - if you want one after May 15, you'll have to pay the company ten bucks for it. And, it's not obvious that they do this - I didn't realize until we went to pull the old digital copy for reference.

                    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                    by elfling on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:08:59 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Except that isn't at all what is being discussed. (0+ / 0-)
                    If the IRS doesn't have your info, then you can't use an auto-fill return. Simple as that. But for many filers, it will make life so much easier.
                    What this discussion is about is the idea that the IRS should prepare your return, mail it to you, and you review and sign it or suggest corrections. That is what would require them to have all your financial information and also require a rewrite of the code.

                    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                    by enhydra lutris on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:17:05 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  That is not the proposal at all (0+ / 0-)

                      The IRS would provide a form pre-populated with the information it has (generally from W-2s and 1099s).  The taxpayer could accept it or not.

                      For many taxpayers, such a pre-populated form would be correct.  For many more, it would be a good starting point; at a minimum, it would eliminate common data entry and arithmetic errors as well as avoid the problem of misplaced W-2s or 1099s.

                      As for your claim that it requires a "rewrite" of the tax code, that is just stupid.

                      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                      by Old Left Good Left on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 11:42:00 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Sorry, but a return prepared by the (0+ / 0-)

                        Commissioner is subject to specific rules and statutes. Everything about the filing process, in fact, is.

                        It is really a generally good idea to have at least some faint clue as to the existing law before proposing random changes.

                        The existing system is based on the idea that the taxpayer files a return based on all of their personal knowledge and financial information. The commissioner may assist, but that consists of putting the information provided by the taxpayer on the proper lines of the proper forms and performing the required calculations. The taxpayer must provide the required information and documentation.

                        The Commissioner may only prepare a return from scratch, without the taxpayer providing the relevant information and documents in certain delinquency situations. Such returns are subject to penalties, are pretty punitive in nature (all assumptions against the taxpayer) and have no statute of limitations for the making of corrections, changes or adjustments by the Commissioner, none, ever. To disagree you pay the tax and file a claim and bring suit in the Court of Claims once the claim is rejected. You might also have access to District Court and possibly even Tax Court. The return is presumed correct and the burden of proof is on the taxpayer.

                        There is a ton more. That is because the system is not designed to be based on wild ass guesses and arbitrary assumptions by the Commissioner, but on real knowledge and information, which only the taxpayer possesses.

                        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                        by enhydra lutris on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 01:38:20 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  No (0+ / 0-)

                          A pre-populated form that a taxpayer has the choice to use or not would not a return  for purposes of the Code.

                          So your entire comment is irrelevant.

                          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                          by Old Left Good Left on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 02:17:53 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  That's why the Commissioner cannot prepare (0+ / 0-)

                            it, grasshopper. We have no provision for tentative returns, that's Brit Law, really, ask your barrister.

                            So, to make it possible you need to get some major changes made, but, as stupid as Congress is, the aides to the relevant committee types weren't born last night and Treasury and IRS will be all over this like flies on what this really is.

                            You are asking the Commissioner to play poker with his hand face up on the table. In effect you are trying to redefine income as "only such income as has been reported to the Commissioner on forms W-2 and 1099".

                            To protect the FISC, major additional changes will need to be implemented. To offset the massive incentive to play audit roulette that you hope to create, massive disincentives to do so will need to be created as well as increases in tax rates to offset the decreased tax base.  A sample of off the top of the head ideas:

                              Incredibly massive penalties for all W-2 and 1099 non-compliance.

                              New 1099 reporting requirements, such as for all financial institutions to provide a complete transaction history and copies of all deposit items for each and every taxpayer.

                             A new return line for "income from source and ap" requiring an entry, if only zero, which entry shall be subject to the jurat and appropriate penalties.

                              A determination that if anybody so much as  looks at such "pre-populated form", their return for that year shall be deemed to have been filed by the Commissioner for purposes of perpetually suspending the statute of limitations with regards to inclusion of income items. The burden shall shift to the taxpayer with respect to all proposed adjustments to gross income.

                             A provision that those playing this form of audit roulette who are found to have under reported income shall be deemed to have done so wilfully, and the under-reported income will be taxed at 70% and the deficiency shall be subject to the negligence penalty. (rebuttable)

                             All of the above shall also apply with respect to Self-Employment income.

                             Rental income shall be included as self-employment income.

                             Income not demonstrably from wages, interest, dividends, and market transactions shall be deemed self-employment income (rebuttable)

                             Requirement for a comparative balance sheet as part of the return and subject to the jurat and special penalties

                            Enjoy your crusade, btw, I hate Intuit too, but not enough to eliminate taxes, we need them for ACA subsidies, Medicare and stuff like that.

                            That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                            by enhydra lutris on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 05:38:11 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You miss the point (0+ / 0-)

                            and you do it so wordily that I have lost interest.

                            California has been doing it for years.  They think it increases compliance and raises revenue on simple returns.

                            "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                            by Old Left Good Left on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 07:17:00 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  IOW, you have nothing rational or factual (0+ / 0-)

                            to say in response:

                            You miss the point
                            and you do it so wordily that I have lost interest.

                            That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                            by enhydra lutris on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 09:06:08 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

        •  The government could explain ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... to those considering direct file that the program is targeted toward those people with simple returns that do not itemize. Alternatively, it could permit manual entry of deductions.

          The IRS posts instruction manuals on their website and in libraries that helps filers choose the form (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ) that best suits their needs.

          Also, Intuit could make their more comprehensive software a selling point for prospective customers. The company still has their right to advertise.

      •  These people (non-itemizers) might have.. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        eparrot, memiller, Adam B

        1. Interest from sources below the reporting threshold
        2. State refunds that may or may not be taxable
        3. Alimony paid according to decree (or not)
        4. Income and expenses from self-employment
        5. Capital gain/loss transactions not reported by brokers
        6. Gain or loss from sale of business assets
        7. Pension etc. distributions fully OR NOT fully taxed
        8. Rental or farm income..........

        I quit. I'm halfway down page 1 of Form 1040. There are innumerable facts and circumstances affecting what is reported on nearly every line.

        IRS is constantly tweaking and refining it's payments reporting system, and that is a great tool for compliance. But as long as Congress can't resist tweaking the tax law to squeeze more contribs from their left and right-wing lobbyists and contributors, just about every line of that tax return can be a maze of it's own.

        Itemized deductions is ONE LINE on Form 1040. It's hardly some indication of who can go on auto pilot and let themselves fall into the invisible arms of the IRS angels.....

        •  Those taxpayers (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bryduck, grover, lgmcp, Mother Shipper

          aren't the target for the for the program. The simple (tax-wise) wage earner with nothing else on their tax return are. Maybe even couples with children entitled to earned income credit, which would only take some simple additional info added to what the IRS already knows. Intuit, their competitors, and the retail tax preparation services make tons of money from preparing those returns.

          Intuit's argument is disingenuous. (I'm kind of lost as to whether this is in agreement with you.)

        •  People have to make their own choices. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mother Shipper

          You can ...

          1) Go it alone and rely on your own understanding of the tax law.

          2) Buy tax prep software.

          3) Go to H&R Block and hire a seasonal "tax pro."

          4) Hire a CPA.

          This new program is another option for people who wish to do it themselves. If you don't want to DIY, this proposal doesn't affect you.

    •  Only 31.8% itemize. This would help the 68.2% ... (6+ / 0-)

      who do not.

      If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

      by edg on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:54:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So we'll just assume who can and who can't. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Neuroptimalian

        This is utter bullshit, especially since if you have that simple of a return it isn't that hard to file your own return and you don't need software or such, simply the ability to read and do arithmetic.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 06:37:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Why assume? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rabel

          Do what they currently do and base it on last year's filing. If you filed 1040 long form last year, they send you the long form this year.

          You're making a mountain out of a molehill for some reason. It ain't rocket surgery.

          If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

          by edg on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 07:04:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  One - that ain't happening, at least not (0+ / 0-)

            universally, and tow - filling it out is a different matter.

            1) Burden of proof as to income = govt.
            2) Burden of proof as to deductions etc = taxpayer.

            Knowledge and records are in the hands of the taxpayer, not the government.

            This definitely isn't rocket science, it is far too sophomoric for that.

            That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

            by enhydra lutris on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 07:46:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  68% of filers take standard deduction. (0+ / 0-)

              For them it is very simple. The minority who itemize can continue to do taxes the same way they have been.

              If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

              by edg on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 11:12:53 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry, but you don't seem to understand that (0+ / 0-)

                there are no IRS agents folowing all of those filers you refer to and noting their every economic and financial transaction. They do not know if those people have any non W-2 income, are suddenly able to itemize, had above the line losses, etc. As a result they cannot file returns.

                One thing you all have correct, those with only w-2 income and no deductions do have simple returns; simple enough that remedial reading and arithmetic skills are all that's needed to file those returns, that and knowledge of the fact that they meet that definition.

                That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                by enhydra lutris on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 03:12:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  You offer it to people ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grover, DeanObama

          ... and if they don't want to file a Simple Return, they won't.

  •  Absurd (8+ / 0-)
    would especially hurt low-income people, who wouldn't have the resources to fight inaccurate returns. Rabbi Elliot Dorff wrote in a Jewish Journal op-ed that he "shudder[s] at the impact this program will have on the most vulnerable people in American society." […]
    The most vulnerable out there can't afford to have someone prepare it for them in the first place. Don't even get me started on them being able to fight an iinacurate return.

    Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

    by Mike S on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:38:59 PM PDT

    •  A 1040EZ (6+ / 0-)

      takes about 30 minutes to fill out. You can file online through the IRS and it doesn't cost a cent.
      I did my own taxes for years when I did the EZ form. Basically, you're transferring information from your W-4 to the form and you figure your deduction from a provided chart, and you're done.
      Then my dad became my tax accountant (after I inherited some money and things got more complicated), because he was a CPA. Then he passed away last year, so Turbo Tax and I did my taxes this year. Even that was fairly easy, though time consuming. It ended up costing me what hiring an accountant to do them would have cost (with purchasing the Turbo Tax Premier at $60 and paying the  state filing fee of $40, federal was free), but I actually enjoyed doing them.

      Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

      by skohayes on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:50:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  W-2, not 4. n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        skohayes

        If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

        by edg on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:55:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Printing out the state return ... (5+ / 0-)

        and mailing it in yourself, after TurboTax has prepared it, only costs the price of a stamp, saving the $40 TT filing fee.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

        by Neuroptimalian on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 07:55:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I know, I was being lazy (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Neuroptimalian, elfling

          and wasn't paying attention at the end of filing. I just don't get these states charging outrageous prices for online filing, versus paper.
          It makes no sense at all.

          Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

          by skohayes on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 03:58:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not sure who is charging those outrageous fees (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            skohayes, Neuroptimalian, elfling

            I use H&R Block's software to do my taxes each year. Federal e-file is free, but would cost me like 40 bucks to e-file my Missouri return. I'm not sure if that's H&R or MO charging the fee, or a combination of both. Needless to say, I printed out the return and mailed it in, and still got my refund in a couple weeks.

            If Missouri is the one charging the fee, that's just stupid on their part. I bet a human doesn't even have to look at most e-filed returns unless there's a red flag. Instead, they have to pay people to handle all of the paper returns and I'm sure they have to enter all the info from the paper return into a computer. Seems a lot more expensive.

            If H&R Block is charging the fee, then whatever, that's their right. I would doubt they have that many takers, but a fool and his money are soon parted.

            "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

            by yg17 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:11:35 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  TT is sneaky about charging the state fiing fee, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Southcoast Luna, elfling

            not telling customers about it until the end of the process.  So yes, it's a bit of a hassle to have to go back and uninstruct TT to electronically file the state return, but worth the effort for those who'd prefer to save the money.

            "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

            by Neuroptimalian on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 11:44:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  First time using TT and yeah, sneaky is right (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Neuroptimalian, elfling

              I didn't know I cd print on my own until afterward. Next year I'll save myself the $$. Also, didn't know I didn't have to download TT, cd have saved myself more$$. Grrr. My mistakes =(hopefully) fool me (just) once.  I do have to report to two states as long as I have current job. On the plus side, Massachusetts has a very easy free web file system but it was super slow this year.

              "I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards any one." (Edith Cavell)

              by Southcoast Luna on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 01:13:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  you didn't need TT Premier, unless you (0+ / 0-)

        used that inherited money to start a business. if all you did was invest it, the Deluxe version will do you just fine. I'm a CPA, and the only time I deal with individuals, is when I do the extended family returns. otherwise, I spend my days wallowing in big corporate tax land.

      •  There's other issues as well (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        puzzled

        The working poor are often entitled to credits and deductions that they don't know about, such as the Earned Income Credit, Dependent Care credit, and educational credits if they apply.  Its not just a matter of transferring figures from their w-2s.  They also may have temp jobs where they only get 1099s and are treated as contractors, so they have to calculate and pay their own Social Security also called the self-employed tax.

        Taxes are more complicated now and they get more complicated every year.

        As you've discovered, it can take hours to do your taxes correctly.

        Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort. - Voltaire
        Don't trust anyone over 84414 - BentLiberal

        by BentLiberal on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 01:25:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sounds like a great way to screw people out of (3+ / 0-)

    a bigger refund or make them pay more than they have to. People might be missing some deductions if they just signed off on whatever the IRS thinks their taxes are. IMO, everyone should go through the process, either with software or a tax preparer, and make sure they're getting all the deductions and credits they're entitled to.

    "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

    by yg17 on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:40:44 PM PDT

    •  Intuit thanks you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pasadena beggar, Adam B, tlf

      and your check is in the mail.

      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

      by Old Left Good Left on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:50:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So saying that everyone should get the deductions (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Norm in Chicago, mattc129

        they're entitled to makes me a corporate shill?

        It just seems like a great way for people to get screwed. Some people are undoubtedly going to see the prepared forms from the IRS, say "Well, this is what the IRS says my taxes are so it must be right, there's no fighting the IRS" and possibly screw themselves out of money.

        If you are 100% damn sure that you're not entitled to any deductions beyond the standard, then you can e-file a 1040EZ for free. But making people go through the process at least forces them to think about it and get what they're owed instead of blindly signing off on what the IRS says they're owed.

        "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

        by yg17 on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:58:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The filled in form is a starting point (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp, Cassandra Waites, Adam B, saluda, TKO333, tlf

          Taxpayers can take whatever deductions they are entitled to, just as they would have to include any income that the IRS did not include.

          A very small percentage of lower income taxpayers itemize (less than 10% of taxpayers in the 10% or lower brackets, for example).  A pre-filled form would be a great advantage to most of them.  It's not just that an EZ can be e-filed for free:  someone has to put the numbers in.

          And, I would note, investment companies can provide a pre-populated Schedule D.  Is anyone complaining about that?

          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

          by Old Left Good Left on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:15:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The problem (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            puzzled

            The problem is the vast majority of taxpayers who receive the pre-filled form will just sign off on it without considering whether they are entitled to other deductions like student loan interest, education credits, EITC, etc., or if they have self-employment income (e.g., daycare services) that needs to be reported.

            That's my concern.  It's a useful exercise for taxpayers to go through item by item each year, whether it's with tax software, a paid preparer, or a VITA volunteer.

            •  The majority of taxpayers (0+ / 0-)

              in fact have only W-2 and 1099 income, and don't itemize.  They are no more or less likely to know about credits whether or not the IRS provides a partially completed return.

              "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

              by Old Left Good Left on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 11:44:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Itemizing? (0+ / 0-)

                I didn't say one word about itemizing.  Student loan interest is an above-the-line deduction, and the others are credits.

                The point is that taxpayers that might have these credits, deductions, or alternative sources of income may not take the time to make sure their return shows them if they get one already filled out from the IRS.  They will, on the other hand, if they use a computer program, paid professional, or VITA volunteer to help them.

        •  BTW (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ncarolinagirl, ozsea1, FindingMyVoice

          I meant it joculary--of course you're not a shill. But you are making the points that Intuit (speciously) makes.

          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

          by Old Left Good Left on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 06:36:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I do my taxes myself on paper (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa, Lady Libertine, tlf

        And so should you.  Don't use Intuit or any other tax software.

        Work your taxes out by hand.  It's nothing more than 4th grade math, it's not hard.

        Then you can file for free on IRS.gov.  I've done that the last 3 years for my 1040.

        •  No way, Norm (0+ / 0-)

          It's far too complicated. TurboTax makes it so easy! Sounds as if that prefilled government form would be good for me. For the past few years TT has advised me to take the standard deduction.

          "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

          by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:02:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  TT "advised" you to take the standard deduction? (0+ / 0-)

            Advise based on what?  Either the standard deduction is more than the itemized deduction, or it isn't.  Do you even know what your itemized deduction is?  Are you including charitable deductions?  Because you should be.
            There's nothing to advise, you can figure that out yourself.  Which number is bigger?

            The most complication I've ever had doing taxes was figuring the cost basis for stock options, and tax software doesn't do that for you.  Once you have all the numbers, doing taxes is easier than a 6th grade math test.  And you get to use a calculator.

            •  Yes, first I tried itemizing everything (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Norm in Chicago

              and then the program said I'd be better off with the standard deduction.

              The cost basis is not that hard if you keep the paperwork or look it up on line.

              "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

              by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:10:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What did you have to itemize? (0+ / 0-)

                I've got mortgage interest, property taxes, state taxes and charity.  Add those us, see if they're more than the standard deduction or not.

                If you're renting and not making much, then you probably are under the standard deduction.  But if you're having trouble itemizing, then it sounds like you've got more than 4 items.  Medical bills or something?  That would definitely put you over I'd think.

                You really should add everything up yourself and double check the software.

        •  you do realize that the single most common error, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          saluda, Odysseus, mattc129

          on a tax return prepared by hand, is a math error, don't you? yes, it is basic math. that said, it apparently isn't "basic" enough. the second most common error: transposals, switching number order. everything from that point on is wrong.

          •  Tell that to the SAT (0+ / 0-)

            If you get the wrong answer on the SAT because you made a math error working the problem out by hand, do you get a do over?  Do you get to demand that the SAT do all the math for you?

            Taxes aren't a timed test.  Do them twice, check your work.  As far as the perils of real life go, taxes are a breeze.

        •  Good for you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LtPowers

          And do you use a quill pen?  An abacus?

          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

          by Old Left Good Left on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:49:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Less than 32% of filers itemize. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

      by edg on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:56:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Government Has Too Many Credibility Problems (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Norm in Chicago, maryabein

      Stunts like the latest "we're holding your tax return to reclaim money that might have been overpaid to some relative of yours during the Truman administration" make it difficult to give them enough benefit of the doubt to implement this idea. (Yeah, each individual could double-check and triple-check the figures, but then what's the point of not just letting them fill out the return from scratch in the first place?)

      On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

      by stevemb on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:42:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Having TT does the same thing. (0+ / 0-)
      make them pay more than they have to
      Many people are too busy, too innumerate, or incapable of doing their taxes properly themselves. Do you want their money going to the government (which only happens if there is a mistake), or a private company (regardless of actual labor involved)?

      "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

      by bryduck on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:49:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, the IRS was pretty good (0+ / 0-)

      to me when I started doing the college deductions for the kids. When I made a mistake, they fixed it and paid me another couple hundred bucks.

      I wouldn't mind having them calculate my taxes. They may not always be right, but I don't assume they are out to screw me. I'd probably use Tax Act or some other software to check their numbers and make sure all my deductions were included since I itemize, but this sounds like it would be a good option for a lot of people.  

    •  When you go it alone ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... you always take the risk that you will make errors because you don't understand all of the laws. People who want/need more help will still turn to TurboTax, H&R Block, or a CPA.

  •  Time to leave QuickBooks and TurboTax. (0+ / 0-)

    QB imported my W2 info into TurboTax, but not my husband's. We work for the same company: ours.

    We were visiting a college this weekend for my daughter and were advised that the FASFA would pull our info direct from the IRS if we gave permission.

  •  Used TurboTax, got back $4750 Fed + State (3+ / 0-)

    So I wasn't that opposed to spending $80 to file. I was able to get so much back because I'm in my first half year of a mortgage and of course am able to deduct my mortgage interest and property taxes.

    •  TurboTax didn't get you that refund (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bryduck

      What you did was waste $80.  You could have done your taxes on paper for free, and filed electronically on IRS.gov for free.

      Do your own taxes, the math isn't hard.

      •  It's either $80 w/ TT or $400 with HR Block (0+ / 0-)

        Two years ago I paid H&R Block $400 to do my taxes because I had an LLC in NJ and had to get that all in order. To me, $80 for TurboTax is acceptable.

        I like that I'm able to log into my investment brokerage and it pulls all my capital loss and gain statements automatically. No manually entering purchase and sale lots, of which I have a decent amount. That saves me a lot of time, and time is worth money to me.

        What's the difference between me paying $80 to TurboTax vs. some rich guy paying a personal accountant thousands? We're both paying someone to do taxes, only income and complexity would differ in that hypothetical scenario.

      •  Easy to say. (0+ / 0-)

        And that might be true for mattc.

        (FWIW, IRS.gov free filing has limits).

        But for even slightly complicated tax returns, Turbotax is a godsend.

        That said, I'm astounded at the hardcore support Intuit has in this comments section for its lobbying efforts against citizens (well, non-citizens too) who file very basic returns.

        Folks like that should be getting life made easier: especially those who loaned the government money all year on an interest-free basis and would like to be repaid promptly.

        Too often, I think, people forget the nature of what a tax return is. When the savings account at my credit union is paying 0.01%, I really am fine with lending the government some funds. But I want someone to make it easy to make it EASY to get my refund back fast. And I know I speak for pretty much everyone.

        Shame on Congress for not moving forward with an auto-fill return as soon as the technology was available.

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:08:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Math isn't hard for you and me; however, ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... my best friend is TERRIFIED of even basic math! She runs a small lawn-care business, but she turn over all her financials to a CPA firm.

  •  What a bunch of Sec. 180. (3+ / 0-)

    Shows just how little you know about tax prep.

    The federal government, after all, gets all that information from your employers and from your financial institutions.
     There's all kinds of tax data the govt. does not get from employers or financial institutions.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:55:16 PM PDT

    •  There's less and less as time goes on (6+ / 0-)

      If you don't own your own business, and get income from your salary as well as a brokerage because you have some stock and mutual funds, the IRS has all that.  Now that it's been phased in, they also have all of the cost basis information for almost all transactions.

      Your state income tax information is on your W2. Interest from home loans could be reported.

      The main item they don't have a handle on is charitable contributions, so there would have to be a way to report that.

      •  The gov't doesn't even get the income data ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Norm in Chicago

        until the end of January.  It would take them months to compile it, and given their antiquated IT systems, their error rate would probably approach 90%, causing nightmares to taxpayers and preparers.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

        by Neuroptimalian on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 08:00:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Neither do I (0+ / 0-)
          doesn't even get the income data until the end of January
          so that's not a useful distinction. As others have pointed out, it's all not-very-complicated math--which computers do quite well, despite your outrageously exaggerated error rate assumption--and once all the figures are in, the filing would be completed virtually instantly. Most people would get their refunds back sooner, which might more than make up (in their eyes) any small errors, and bigger errors can happen in any system used.

          "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

          by bryduck on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:57:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  People can already get refunds quickly, ... (0+ / 0-)

            it merely depends upon how early they file their returns.  There's no requirement that anyone wait until April 15th, they only have to wait until they receive their W-2s and 1099s from those from whom they received their income.  Adding the government into the middle of the equation can ONLY cause delay, not speed things up.

            Oh, and my error rate assumption concerns the government's inability to quickly and accurately compile ALL relevant data and return it to taxpayers, not the ability of computers to add and subtract.

            "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

            by Neuroptimalian on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 11:39:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The IRS (0+ / 0-)

              does, in fact, compile the information received from employers and others required to file information returns quickly and accurately.

              Your 90% figure is pulled out of your ass.

              "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

              by Old Left Good Left on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:12:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Believe what you will. (0+ / 0-)

                It's an estimate based upon comments of insiders.  They should know.  Their IT systems are so antiquated they're barely useable anymore.  

                "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

                by Neuroptimalian on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:43:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's not a matter of belief (0+ / 0-)

                  and you're full of shit.

                  The IRS reviews returns when they are received to confirm that information from W-2s and 1099s are included.  If there is a discrepancy, a notice is generated.

                  On your theory, 90% of taxpayers would receive a notice correcting their returns--either demanding more taxes or giving a refund.

                  That isn't happening.

                  "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                  by Old Left Good Left on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 07:14:39 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The IRS doesn't review returns ... (0+ / 0-)

                    "when they are received".  Yes, there is an initial review ... done to try to prevent fraud.  Beyond that, adjustment letters are often not sent out until two plus years after the return was filed, allowing the IRS the opportunity to compare data numerous times over that period to cut down on the IRS's error rate that would otherwise occur.  Even then their assessment of their data is often wrong and, ultimately, no changes are made to the returns filed after the involved taxpayers again provide the data that the IRS computers somehow missed.

                    The IRS IT system is grossly antiquated and under-manned.  Period.  

                    Good day.

                    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

                    by Neuroptimalian on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 09:52:40 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Really (0+ / 0-)

                      Returns are input upon receipt and there is almost immediate matching against W-2 and 1099 data. Returns that are challenged two years after filing are almost always challenged on substantive grounds, not mere omissions or errors of W-2 or 1099 data.

                      Given that you don't know that, I feel comfortable that the rest of your comment is equally misinformed.

                      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                      by Old Left Good Left on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 10:43:30 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Input upon receipt (depending upon backlog), (0+ / 0-)

                        yes; matching against W-2 and 1099 data, yes, but only cursorily to attempt to thwart fraud attempts.  More thorough review is done MUCH later, thus the multi-year delay in challenging taxpayer assertions.  

                        My point is that the IRS would not consider sending out pre-filled forms until the data had been reviewed more thoroughly or else chaos would certainly ensue.  Therefore, there is no way the IRS will support this proposal until such time as their systems are significantly upgraded.  Given their budget constraints, it's easily predictable that the IRS will never see itself as being adequately equipped to take on this unnecessary burden.  

                        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

                        by Neuroptimalian on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 11:49:38 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  You do know (0+ / 0-)

                          that California has been doing this for years, don't you?

                          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

                          by Old Left Good Left on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 12:11:37 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Nope, I left California years ago, ... (0+ / 0-)

                            partly because judicial corruption had become intolerable.

                            Now that you've informed me of California's use of pre-filled forms, I'm not surprised to also learn (after doing minimal research) that it is barely utilized ... only 3% of taxpayers participated as of 2009.  I don't doubt that the rate has increased some since then, but probably not by very much.  I found no information about their error rate; I doubt it's negligible.  And unless it's negligible, what's the point?  

                            That said, I found this interesting tidbit online:

                            The I.R.S., however, isn’t rushing to offer returns that are already filled in. In the 2009 report to Congress of its Taxpayer Advocate Service, it noted that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama proposed giving taxpayers “the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return.” The report said “it is not feasible at this time” because the agency receives W-2 data from the Social Security Administration and 1099 data from financial institutions too late in the filing season, “much later than most eligible taxpayers would be willing to wait.”
                            For those incapable of preparing their own simple tax returns, it appears that this dream will still have to wait.  For the rest of us, especially those with returns to prepare that are more complicated than the basic EZ, it'll never amount to anything worth bothering with, even if it ever is offered.

                            "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

                            by Neuroptimalian on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 06:48:57 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

        •  Complete and utter bullshit n/t (0+ / 0-)

          "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

          by Old Left Good Left on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:22:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  February, not January. n/t (0+ / 0-)

          If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

          by edg on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 11:02:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  January 31st, as of the last time I had to deal .. (0+ / 0-)

            with the subject.  Many W-2 issuers do so earlier in the month, but others wait until the deadline to allow the maximum time possible to check for and prevent errors and avoid having to issue amended forms.

            "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

            by Neuroptimalian on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 11:41:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Neuroptimalian

              W-2s are due to the employee by January 31st. But the deadline for submitting the government copy of W-2s and the W-3 summary data is February 28th. In the comment I responded to, you said "The gov't doesn't even get the income data until the end of January."

              If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

              by edg on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 10:07:08 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Charitable deductions (0+ / 0-)

        A lot of people don't exceed the standard deduction.

        © grover


        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:11:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Where have you been? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ncarolinagirl, bryduck, Odysseus

      I own a small business. The Feds gets my credit card data from my merchant processors. They get 1099's of my inventory purchases from my suppliers. They get 1099's from my bank.

      There's not very much tax data the govt. does not get.

      If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

      by edg on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 06:08:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes there is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grover, puzzled

        they only get some inventory purchases. They have no idea what your ending inventory is. They have no idea how much you spent on new equipment or what kind of depreciation deduction you get from your old equipment. They have no idea what you spent on rent or gas or on office supplies or insurance. Unless 100% of your sales are through credit cards, they have no idea what your gross income is. If you own a business, there are 10 times the information that they don't have compared to what they do have.

        But that's really beside the point. This program won't ever work for small business owners (or business owners of any kind). It's designed for simple returns.

        •  But the original commmenter ... (0+ / 0-)

          said it wouldn't work for simple returns because "There's all kinds of tax data the govt. does not get from employers or financial institutions."

          I was merely pointing out that the government already gets a bunch of tax data even for small businesses, which have a far more complex tax situation than wage workers.

          And I didn't even mention quarterly estimated tax reporting (which is based on estimated net income) and withholding tax reporting (which includes an entry for salary paid to employees).

          If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

          by edg on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 11:09:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  It's ridiculous that anyone should have to pay (6+ / 0-)

    money to file any IRS return electronically.

    And yes, I've seen the free services. They're horrible to use, most likely intentionally so. But not everyone can use them anyway.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 04:59:16 PM PDT

  •  Once upon a time, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ncarolinagirl, pasadena beggar

    maybe not so many years ago, TurboTax was a helpful product. Then Intuit changed hands, I guess, and landed in the clutches of the dark side. Now, their web interface is an awful, awful thing. A horror. It will suck your time. If you're filing the EZ or the 1040 A, it is most definitely not worth it. Life is short.

    I had such a perfectly horrid experience last year, with an unfriendly interface, a lot of unnecessary forms I had to print for no reason, and other hassles, I'm declining to use TT ever again. I will do what I can to spread the word.

    This year? Given the probability that I'll have to pay no additional taxes, and am due a refund, I'm biding my time till after April 15 to file.

    You've just added to my reasons not to use TurboTax. The antichrist.

    Thanks.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:00:22 PM PDT

    •  Golly, it seems so friendly to me (4+ / 0-)

      but I guess I forget how much I should be thankful for gigabit broadband on my work machine, not to mention hefty portions of RAM.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 05:31:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not only is it easy (for those equipped to ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp

        understand math), there's no requirement whatsoever that all the forms it prepares must be printed out.  Many of those forms are merely supplemental and supportive, showing how the various calculations are made.  It's wise to keep a copy of them in case of future audit, but by no means mandatory.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

        by Neuroptimalian on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 08:04:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here, you're a tad insulting. (0+ / 0-)

          I think my math is pretty good (I'm trained as an algebra teacher, after all). Moreover, the TT interface was difficult-to-use, and I'm not making up the bit about the requirement to print unnecessary forms. This really happened.

          On the last point, fairly, I wasn't running the most up-to-date Mac OS when I did taxes last year, and this may have made a difference.

          It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

          by karmsy on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:04:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Intuit has not changed hands (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      karmsy, grover

      They bought turbotax from chipsoft more than 20 years ago, when it was a tiny company with a great product for its time.

  •  So what can we do? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rabel, Odysseus

    If this bill came to the floor, would the vote be close? Would it be a partisan vote?  Is there an organization pushing for this?  Are there specific Congresspeople holding it up?

    It's hardly the most important issue in the country, but it seems like one that could get broad public support, even from people who aren't particularly political: it's a no-brainer issue.

  •  The government couldn't possibly figure out mine (5+ / 0-)

    If you just have wages, no house, no itemized deductions, and no dependents, then sure, the IRS could just dump your W-2 into its computer and spit out a return for you to sign. But if that's all you have, any of the tax software can do the same thing, and most of them can now do it by importing the W-2.

    The reason preparing tax returns is complicated is because our tax code is complicated. And no, I'm not a fan of the flat tax, or taxing a single person with no dependents the same as a wage-earner supporting a partner plus three kids, or eliminating all itemized deductions.

    So sure, Intuit has a vested interest here. But at least it doesn't have a vested interest in protecting any particular tax breaks, like the flat taxers and the hedge fund managers do.

  •  I paid my taxes this year... (8+ / 0-)

    ...but because I live in the District Colony of Columbia, I still have NO voting representation in Congress.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 07:07:16 PM PDT

  •  I resent tremendously the complexity of the tax (8+ / 0-)

    system.  I am an intelligent professional with a master's degree, and I refuse to pay for someone else to do my taxes for me.  I believe that no government form, which the government expects all citizens with income to complete yearly, should be so complex that someone with a high school education cannot complete it with reasonable accuracy.

    So, I've done my own taxes every year since my first job in high school.  Granted, I have nothing more involved than the 1040 A long form - and I've had to use some kind of tax preparation program ever since the feds quit sending out the forms and booklet of instructions, but I still consider that I'm doing it myself.

    And I'm pretty happy this year - will get back $1800 federal and $200 state.  I'm one of those who would rather overpay and get a refund than have to write a check at the end of the year.

    "A man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.." - Teddy Roosevelt -8.12, -5.18

    by ncarolinagirl on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 08:20:57 PM PDT

    •  Go to the library for the forms (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lady Libertine, ncarolinagirl

      I still do my taxes on paper first, then fill out the free online forms.  Go to the library, they have all the forms and booklets you need.

      You can also pull up PDFs and print the forms you need.

      •  Not usually. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Norm in Chicago, ncarolinagirl
        Go to the library, they have all the forms and booklets you need.
        Most libraries only have the basic forms, if they have those at all. (Mine just started carrying them again this year, after not having any for 20 years or so.) Your other point (that all forms are available from the government tax sites) is completely accurate, though.

        "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

        by bryduck on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:01:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I guess it varies (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ncarolinagirl

          My library has had an ample supply of all the forms I've ever needed, provided one doesn't wait until after Mid March.

          •  Location and Timing are everything... not a great (0+ / 0-)

            variety in my small city, and of course, it's far beyond mid-March...  but I appreciate the suggestions!

            I think I was originally driven to TaxAct the year I ran around from post office to post office and library looking for certain forms that no one had... at the last minute, of course.

            "A man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.." - Teddy Roosevelt -8.12, -5.18

            by ncarolinagirl on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 06:47:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I gave up last night (0+ / 0-)

    I've filed mine already (thru my tax guy), but I was trying to help my daughter with hers. I've claimed her as dependent, she lives in another state for college and works there in summer too.

    The fed tax form was a breeze (one might say it was EZ), but after 3 hours with one of the state forms I threw in the towel. It's just so non-intuitive and overly complicated. Even the way the forms and instructions were laid out was confusing and not intuitive. Who's writing these things? There's not even a clear and concise "extension" form. Unreal.

    I feel like shit because I've been telling her, "We can knock these things out in an hour, you only have 2 W2s, etc." My tax guys says she's way under the fed threshold for filing so we're just going to skip it. I'll give her the $300 she would have been refunded.

  •  a rabbi, a state NAACP official,a small town mayor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mkor7, grover

    walk into a bar........

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:46:02 AM PDT

  •  "follow the money" pretty much takes care of all (0+ / 0-)

    questions

  •  Every capital transaction such as selling stock or (0+ / 0-)

    property should be logged and totaled at the appropriate interval with tax bill either debited or credited to the transaction automatically. If their transaction is offset by an unaccounted for cost a separate filing can be made for adjustment by thepeople involved in the transaction.

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:53:43 AM PDT

  •  TTax good, astroturf bad (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LtPowers

    "The federal government, after all, gets all that information from your employers and from your financial institutions."

    No, not even close for many people.  Many people who work part-time and the self-employed are not really covered at all.  Their returns are based on self-reporting.  If you get a statement from a financial institution such as a brokerage you may often find it is incomplete or inaccurate. The other countries which do this are much more "socialized" which is probably a good thing, but the US is not there yet.

    TTax and some others actually do a good job for a reasonable price (don't pay more than $30 for the standard edition unless you are absolutely sure you need the fanciers ones).  When the US has enough electronic records that most returns can be done automatically the commercial software may not be needed, but that's still in the future.

    Of course Intuit will lobby like any other business, but astroturf is not good.

  •  Taxes are only as complicated as you make them (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puzzled

    I did both my and my fiancee's taxes a few weeks ago (both filing single) and it was totally free through H&R Block online for both federal and NY state taxes. Simple enough overall--an AGI adjustment for her thanks to student loan interest, some 1099-INT forms for each of us plus a 1099-DIV for me, and not enough deductions for either of us for itemizing to be better than the standard deduction.

    Now, can it get complicated quickly? Sure. Heck, thanks to the software she got a small credit thanks to the saver's credit that I didn't realize she was eligible for this year. And I understand once you start doing the paperwork for dependents and possibly the EITC and start worrying about itemizing deductions. And that it can get even worse once you start talking about filing a Schedule C or dealing with rental property or any other number of things. And quite frankly, at that point I'd consider a professional money well spent. But even if I got a prefilled form from the IRS I'd still at least double-check it and see if it missed anything.

    The class on individual federal income tax I took in college to fulfill a "diversity" requirement was definitely far more useful than some of those other classes I had to take. The textbook may be a decade out of date regarding some of the changes since it was published but the basics are still solid.

    •  Heh. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Adam B
      Taxes are only as complicated as you make them (0+ / 0-)
      Ask the people who were un/underinsured after Superstorm Sandy, especially if they were significantly injured, lost their homes or places of business,  had to withdraw 401k or IRA funds to survive, etc  if taxes are only as complicated as "you" make them

      Taxes tend to get complicated quickly because life happens.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:25:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  HR Block and Jackson Hewitt are working 6 days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grover

    a week with evening hours for the past few months. I would guess they want taxes more complicated so people will hire them to do their taxes.

    Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at http://keystoneliberalsforum.aimoo.com/

    by wishingwell on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:08:21 AM PDT

  •  I'm going to use TT until someone or something (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mattc129

    comes up with something equally easy. I know what life was like in my pre-TT days and I've seen the difference in the last few years. I'm not going to tackle anything that complicated without help.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:14:52 AM PDT

  •  I don't know why we need these 3rd party services (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, Odysseus

    Like Turbo Tax and all those companies.  People should be able to just log into a secure government website - and file.

    Period.

    •  OUtsourcing so far seems to be a scam (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hockeyray

      for some agencies to avoid certain legal ramifications. Imagine how privacy laws change for a contractor vs an actual federal agency for starters.

      "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

      by GreenMother on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:26:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  TaxAct and TurboTax (the bigs in tax software) (0+ / 0-)

    have only recently--say, in the last 5-7 years--provided the ability to do your Fed return for free (you still pay to file State return). Before that you paid on both ends.  My suspicion is that software makers only started to provide some free filing because they perceived the existential threat posed by free government filing, and this allows the software makers to appear to be responsive.

    All that said, people who choose to do so should absolutely be able to use pre-filled, free tax filing at IRS.gov if that's what they prefer, or to use software, accountants, or whatever they want to file their returns.  It is completely ridiculous that people can't file their taxes directly at federal and state tax sites, and that Intuit and others are actively lobbying to prevent it.  They are fighting to protect a business model that is unsustainable.

    •  Free Fed and State filing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pasadena beggar, Be Skeptical

      There is no reason to pay for the state filing, either. There are free fillable federal forms that do a large part of the math, even for non-standard schedules and forms. And Oregon at least does the same for state forms. And if your state doesn't give you a free fillable form option, plug your federal numbers into the print state form, put it in an envelope, attach a Forever Stamp, and drop it in the mail.

      $40 to file a state form that is essentially plugging in federal numbers is a scam. Don't fall prey to it. If your state doesn't like print returns, your filing them will encourage them to come up with a free electronic filing option.

      •  Yes. Completely true. (0+ / 0-)

        I was going to mention free state filing, and how TaxAct and TurboTax rip you off when you use their software to file your state return, but my post was already approaching tl;dr.

        Although free filing (Federal and State) has been (and may still be, for all I know) somewhat circumscribed and tied to income level, there are several ways to prepare your taxes and file them, with software and/or online, for free.

        Your local library can help you find free filing resources, usually accessible from their website:-)

  •  Are these the same programmers that put (0+ / 0-)

    intuitive software online that pretends it knows how I think?

    Because if so, the Psychic Friends Network called and said they want their magic 8 ball back.

    What a disaster in the making. This has the same stench on it as that SSN debacle with tax returns. I don't know how but I just can smell it.

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:24:17 AM PDT

  •  I usually go with Block software, but used Turbo (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MKinTN, PsychoSavannah, puzzled

    Tax this time because it can import info from my mutual fund company. Remembering the previous year's 1099B, which had something like 2 dozen entries for me to input manually, I shelled out the extra $20+ for TT--and when it was too late, noticed that the 2013 1099B had one stinking entry. And, of course, extra states are another $45 per.

    Turbo Tax was basically helpful, except when I needed it most (in fairness, Block software was no better). You'll be cruising along, filling in values, and suddenly, there's a single entry field with the instruction, "Enter your prorated hooberflooberdoober form 8712AX value, adjusted for neap tide and the position of Saturn's moon Enceladus as of February 10, 1801." If there's even a link, it's to some state document PDF that's 78 pages long; otherwise, it says "Consult a tax expert." I don't understand why the program is suddenly unable to process the info.

    With luck, I'll live in only one state this year. But I ain't doing my taxes online, not with weekly announcements of massive security holes in websites, or some giant database getting hacked.

  •  Turbo Tax, H&R Block, etc. (0+ / 0-)

    Are businesses who want to protect their businesses.

    Like the DEA wants to protect their jobs in the face of people fighting back over marijuana (btw, the claim that most people are incarcerated for narcotics and not pot is a very false statement, why?  The DEA listed marijuana as a narcotic until last year sometime, which it is NOT).

    We also have Campaigns which are now BIG BUSINESS as well and all those TV Stations love that AD Revenue every 2 years and especially every 4 years.  Do you think THOSE folks want to lose their jobs?  Me neither.....  We are STUCK with big money in politics because big money makes big money for a few.

    Anyhow, just as Walmart's Food sales decreased as food stamp usage was cut - what in the hell does that tell people who have a brain?

    -6.13 -4.4 Where are you? Take the Test!!!

    by MarciaJ720 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:38:06 AM PDT

  •  116K AGI, 5.15% Fed tax rate (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mattc129, grover

    That's right. It may be the lowest I have ever had, except for being in college and paying nothing.

    We got $5K in credits for two kids in college, but still....

    5.15%. To live in the USA?

    That's a fucking bargain. And one reason why I have little patience for tax whiners.

    I do use Turbo Tax--have for the last 15 years. Cost about $60 -- $40 for the software on sale at Costco, and $20 to file the state return (which I could do myself, but, to be honest, the convenience is worth $20).

    And, depending on how much Mrs Azdak spends on classroom supplies, I can often deduct the cost of the software on next yrs return.

    America works best when it works for everyone.

    by Azdak on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 08:58:46 AM PDT

    •  How'd you pull that off?! ;-) n/t (0+ / 0-)
      •  Not atypical (0+ / 0-)

        Family of four yields personal exemptions worth 15,800.

        Itemized deductions of 24,000, which is easy to get to if you have a mortgage, and especially easy if you have a mortgage and live in a high tax state.

        Tax on a taxable income of 76,200 is 10,908.

        Less education credits of 5,000 is payment of 5,908.

        Overall tax rate is 5.1%.

        I would add payroll taxes, which would be in the range of 15% if that income was all wage income, and conclude that this person's federal tax rate is about 20%.

        "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

        by Old Left Good Left on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 01:53:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Intuit. Feh. (0+ / 0-)

    I just filed with Intuit Turbo Tax. I hate it.

    It is bad enough that it is the one time each year I have to fire-up a Windows machine (I'm all Linux, otherwise)...

    But, I really really really really hate giving money to Intuit.

    I give them my money so they can make it harder to file in the future.

    Lather, rinse, repeat...

  •  I confess to being a big fan of TurboTax (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rileycat, mattc129, grover

    I've been using it for literally decades, and I've never really felt the cost for my simple needs was exhorbitant.  For a lot of folks, me included, it's possible to directly import all of my income data anyway.  Easy peasy.  

    Where the complicated parts are, and where the pre-filled forms wouldn't be helpful, are in the itemized deductions.  They change every year and couldn't be preloaded anyway.

    So yeah, I can see how Intuit has a market niche they'd like to preserve, but I can't see how user input is going to be avoided in any case.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:00:48 AM PDT

  •  Just a correction... (0+ / 0-)

    In the first paragraph "European companies" should be "European countries."  Great article.

    "Distribution should undo excess,/ And each man have enough." --King Lear

    by Webster Hodges on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 09:04:45 AM PDT

  •  small refund here. . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Southcoast Luna

    $500 federal, but owe about $250 to the state.

    We try to get as close to a 0 dollar refund as possible, we adjust our W-4 aggressively to reduce the amount of the refund at the end of the year.

    We e-file our federal taxes, but never e-file the state TurboTax charges $22.00 for that. I would rather print it out and spend .70 cents on postage to mail it.

  •  Replace it all with a national sales tax. n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Yet another example of (0+ / 0-)

    how we can trust the free market to look out for our better interests.

    It is a good example of the government doing so, though. They'll have to spin this as some kind of government takeover of your taxes...what a bunch of freaking idiots, making all of our lives harder, all for the benefit of a small group of people. God they piss me off

    Money should be treated like any other controlled substance; if you can't use it responsibly then you don't get to use it.

    by La Gitane on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:11:24 AM PDT

    •  Just another way to fleece the masses (0+ / 0-)

      Corporations now go to Congress and get laws passed that create a "market" for them to exploit.  This is just one example.  Defense spending is probably the ultimate (hey buddy, need a tank the Army has no use for?) example.  Drug laws are another.  They fill up privately run prisons with minor drug offenders.  It goes on and on.

      The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones! - John Maynard Keynes

      by Do Something on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:35:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'll be filing my taxes the via the Bundy method (0+ / 0-)

    Refuse to pay them, and when the Feds show up, threaten them with guns and kick their dogs.

    They'll just let me go without paying - Amirite?

    "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

    by Subterranean on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:42:31 AM PDT

  •  Joan: please fix Tie Po (0+ / 0-)

    That's how it's done in a handful of European

    companies,
    and how presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama think you should be able to file.

    U mean "countries?"

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:46:21 AM PDT

  •  State Fillable Forms is Intuit Inc. (0+ / 0-)

    I just filed my state income tax return. I used the PA State Fillable Forms website. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the address blank in Firefox and saw that the domain statefillableforms.com is run by Intuit Inc. of San Diego.

    The Republican plan is always the same old trickle-down, on-your-own, special-interests-first, country-club, voodoo economics.
    Donate to Oxfam America for the famine in east Africa.

    by JayC on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:12:55 PM PDT

  •  I prefer the way the UK does it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puzzled

    The government tells your employer exactly how much each regular employee is allowed tax free per year, mortgage interest tax relief is handled at source and directly reduces your monthly payment. With that out of the way most folks don't benefit from itemized deductions and have to neither pay in nor claim a refund. If you can claim a refund there's a simple form for that, not a full return.

    Only the self employed have to file a full return every year and each year a fraction of the rest are randomly selected to do so. Most people can go for years at a time and never have to file anything at all, because the system is set up to deduct (as nearly as possible) exactly the right amount over the year, leaving the vast majority of UK taxpayers neither owing nor owedowed.

  •  Is it a good idea? (0+ / 0-)

    Yes and no.  It would be good for the average taxpayer that does not itemize their return, or who applies for education credits.  If a person, or a family does not itemize nor qualify for education credits, etc. and these pre-filled forms allow for adjustments, then it'd be a great way to ease the tax filing burden for many people.  As a tax professional, who prepares and counsels many taxpayers for free, as a volunteer, I find that the vast majority of people do not understand much of anything about their tax returns so they wouldn't know if the pre-filled form was accurate or not.  I get people who don't even open the envelopes with their tax documents, like W-2's, 1099R's, interest and dividends, brokerage statements and the like.  They don't have a clue as to what deductions they can take so unless people are more educated, it's not a good idea.  Don't get me wrong, I don't like the high fees some of these for profit tax services charge, and I worked for one of them and quit because of the rip off, but the IRS has free file on their website, I volunteer through a non profit that partners with the IRS to do tax returns for free, so they do make it easy.  A 1040 EZ only needs to have the top filled out with name, address, SS#, # of dependents and line one with total wage income, attached W-2, sign, date and the IRS will complete it for them.  Or we had tele-tax where it could be done for free.  So, I don't see the problem except that these services, for free, aren't more widely publicized.

  •  Funny you mention this (0+ / 0-)

    because I didn't know that since I'm disabled and low income that i could get help getting my taxes done. But in 2012 H&R Block charged me $260 for a $267 refund and neglected to tell me since I live in PA and am disabled and low income I qualified for a $250 property tax rebate. So last year I went to liberty tax and I got a $67 refund and she tried to charge me $400 and I refused and she said okay $200 and I won't help you fill out your property tax rebate form. So if anyone thinks this would hurt low income people they lie through their teeth.

  •  I'm one of those people (0+ / 0-)

    who do a quick form.  Planning before retirement and I am debt free.  I chose a career which minimized my need to invest in the Wall Street gambling halls.  Nice house is all mine and not a bank (OK, RE taxes is a debt).

    This would work just fine with me.

  •  i don't think those quick versions (0+ / 0-)

    will ever apply to my taxes

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 11:26:47 AM PDT

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