If you are near despair about the divisiveness of our body politic, take cheer in the rare bipartisanship demonstrated by the “Taxpayer First Act.” The 2019 measure, introduced by John Lewis (D-GA), co-sponsored by Mike Kelly (R-PA) and nine other Republicans and twenty-eight Democrats, passed the House unanimously by voice vote and now awaits action by the Senate. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had already introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
Legislators from both parties are boasting that this Act safeguards innocent taxpayers from abuse by the Internal Revenue Service. And, oh yeah, it also permanently prohibits the IRS from developing a free tax-filing service for taxpayers with low-to-moderate incomes, as some other developed countries do. H&R Block and Intuit (TurboTax) spent $6.6 million last year lobbying for this outcome. Coincidentally, sponsors of the ironically-named bill received campaign contributions from them.
H&R Block and TurboTax, part of the “Free File Alliance,” offer – and lightly promote – free-filing services. They mostly use it as a come-on to leverage clients into fee-for-service products.
The IRS, with taxpayers’ income information already supplied by employers and banks, could easily send out pre-filled forms for taxpayers with simple returns to make corrections or adjustments to and sign and return, and probably at less expense than the current system. But that would be socialism and we can’t have that.