There's a ton of crap in the Senate Republicans' funding bill
for financial services, including trying to gut the Dodd-Frank Wall Street, slash IRS funding, and prevent enforcement of net neutrality rules. Here's another: H&R Block lobbied the Appropriations Committee to include language
in an accompanying report that would make filing taxes much harder and more complicated for poor people. It would force the IRS to "at least quadruple the length of the form that taxpayers fill out to get the Earned Income Tax Credit."
It is hard to adequately express how despicable this is. The EITC is one of America's premier anti-poverty programs. It targets poor families specifically, and because you have to work to get it, countless studies have found it encourages single mothers and other people without much connection to the labor market to enter the workforce. The Census Bureau estimates that it and the related Child Tax Credit keep 9.4 million people out of poverty every year, and recent research suggests that when you take into account the people the EITC brings into the workforce, the real number is probably twice that. If that weren't enough, it also boosts test scores for kids in families receiving it and improves both parents' and children's health. […]
But because it offers refunds for people who otherwise don't make enough to file taxes, the EITC expands the market for parasitic tax prep companies like H&R Block and Intuit. Currently, recipients only have to fill out a single-page form, and the IRS operates free tax preparation centers for low-income people having trouble completing their returns. But that hasn't stopped commercial tax preparers from swooping in, and currently two-thirds of EITC claimants pay to have their returns prepared. Commercial preparers charge hundreds of dollars in fees, so a huge chunk of EITC benefits are going to these useless garbage companies, rather than to actual poor people. Preparers also used to offer high-interest "refund anticipation loans," which were even more costly; regulators have pushed those out of existence, but similar "refund anticipation checks" remain.
In order to make sure that they're getting the remaining one-third of EITC claimants, H&R Block convinced Senate Republicans to require that the IRS change the one-paged Schedule EIC—the form EITC claimants file with their taxes—to four or five pages. Taxpayers claiming the EITC have a series of questions to answer, on this one-paged schedule, but commercial tax preparers have a four-paged form with 30 questions they're required to file along with the customer's form. They're required to do so because they have a tendency to really screw these filings up—a "recent IRS study
found EITC-claiming returns from paid preparers were more likely to result in overpayments than self-filed returns." But what H&R Block lobbied for, and got, was to force people trying to file on their own to fill out these four pages and all the questions—even though the relevant information is already in the return.
It just makes the process far more complicated and far more cumbersome. That, as Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues would probably mean more eligible people just wouldn't file for the credit at all, or would end up needlessly paying companies like H&R Block money that they can't really afford. Because, after all, this is a program for the working poor. What's more, credits for the middle class, including the Child Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses, and the Premium Tax Credit that helps people pay the cost of health insurance are going to get the fill-out-four-extra-pages treatment, too.
You could say it was unbelievable, how far Republicans will go to screw the poor and the middle class on behalf of corporate American and the one percent. Except it's not anymore, it's entirely too believable, because they prove it time and time again.