A dreaded deadline is upon many Americans, especially procrastinators – the one requiring the filing of tax returns.
One reason it is so dreaded is the complexity of the federal tax code and the fear that a mistake will be made in filling out the tax forms.
So it would be welcome if this experience could be made easier. But repeated efforts to simplify the tax code have failed due to opposition from special interests who influence lawmakers here in the United States.
Some other nations have been successful in finding a solution, however, that eliminates the tax return torture and turns it into an easier process taking only a few minutes. Predictably, the idea is getting nowhere in Washington.
The solution is known as “return-free filing.” It works this way: tax authorities prepare a return for you, telling you what your taxes will be based on information they already have from employers and financial institutions which are already required to tell the government what you have earned.
If you agree with that estimate, you simply tell the government to go ahead and use it without you having to do your own tax return.
It is very workable. After all, many taxpayers have a relatively simple income picture. They are not speculators or heavy investors trying to take advantage of tax loopholes provided in the thousands of pages of the tax code. Those who do use these advantages could reject the tax estimate and do their own taxes.
So who is fighting such an elegant, simple and free solution to tax filing complexity?
According to a joint report by NBC News and National Public Radio, it comes from two directions. One is tax preparers and those who write tax preparation software. Their income depends on taxpayers wanting help with tax preparation. Another is from conservative tax opponents who fear tax preparation being “socialized.”
Both say the government could take advantage of the system to intimidate Americans and get them to pay more taxes than they should.
Really? Taxpayers would be totally free to continue to do their own taxes. And ultimately, the government already decides what you will pay after analyzing your return. Yes, you can fight that decision, but it can be a difficult and expensive process to do so, one which most of us wouldn't want to undertake.
This is a way to make the filing process easier for many Americans without the political difficulty of rewriting the tax code. Lawmakers need to put the return-free option in place before the next tax filing deadline in 2014.