Intuit Continues To Make Sure Filing Taxes Is Complicated

from the getting-intuit dept

Three years back, Mike wrote a piece about how Intuit, maker of TurboTax software, was actively lobbying against a system that would allow for a simple, quick way of filing income taxes (a way that might possibly mean fewer people need to buy TurboTax). Basically, the government could give you pre-filled out forms with all the info it received from your employer and you could just review it, click okay, and be done with your taxes. Intuit's explanation for fighting this ranged from lying by saying taxpayers already had access to that functionality (they don't) and misleading when they said it was a conflict of interest for the government to be the tax preparer and collector (the government wouldn't be doing any actual preparation). Now, as we approach the income tax deadline in the United States, Intuit has changed its tune. That doesn't mean they've stopped lobbying against this system, which has been backed by presidents from Reagan to Obama. Rather, their excuses have simply changed to be at once even more misleading and simultaneously more honest.

Let's take the first excuse, for instance.

Intuit argues it might cost some taxpayers more money.
Well, thank science that we have disinterested parties like Intuit looking out for our tax-paying well-being. The system would cost more money? Obviously the government is trying to force more taxes out of hard-working 'Mericans! That would be the conclusion you could reach if the proposed return-free filing program wasn't entirely optional. Instead, Intuit comes off as merely wishing to keep choices away from Americans. As for their second reason:
Such changes would hurt its business.
Boom, honesty. Requesting tax-paying options not be given to American citizens because it would hurt a company's bottom line is an interesting argument to make. By interesting, of course, I mean laughably silly. What's not silly is that for the past five years, the $11.5 million Intuit has paid in lobbying efforts has resulted in the selling out of the American taxpayer. Reports suggest that enabling a return-free system would save taxpayers up to $2 billion (with a "b") and over two hundred million hours in preparation time.

But, hey, that apparently won't stop the company and a couple of key allies from fanning the flames of anti-government conservatives to make sure it rakes in billions (also with a "b"). Intuit has decried the simple filing solution to be "big government", despite the conservative argument generally looking to make the tax system more simple. Backing them, unbelievably, is tax activist Grover Norquist.

Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes?



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    Keroberos (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes?
    Hmmm...Anyone else wondering how much Intuit donates to Grover's Americans for Tax Reform?

     

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    fb39ca4 (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    "Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes?"

    Simple, because he doesn't care for conservative ideology, he is just saying what will make him the most money.

     

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      Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:21am

      Re:

      Simple, because he doesn't care for conservative ideology, he is just saying what will make him the most money.

      Provided you drop the word conservative from that line, I am willing to say that is like most hard core republicans and democrats. Very ideological, until a dollar is involved.

       

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        Jay (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 12:23pm

        Mini-rant

        Let's stop for a second and recognize conservatism and liberalism for what they are: right wing ideologies based on accepting income inequality at its base. Without people looking to actually fight against this inequality in power, you will continue to see a fight about government spending and other issues that have dire effects on the public.

        The problem of conservatism is the fact that they argue against all forms of government spending fiscally (and they've yet to balance a budget since Ike) and suppress people that would vote against them.

        The problem of liberalism, as evidenced by Obama, is that they go right with the status quo and continue in a rightward direction until the public speaks out and shows how extreme their position has gotten. I personally believe that Obama is making the same mistakes as FDR and may not do much to help reform the republic we've lost.

        The point here is that we should understand the politics of someone's position and where their incentives lies. Obama's relies on just doing what the very rich corporations want him to do. Same with conservatives in the Republican or Democratic party. If you want to force a change in our society, it isn't going to be done by voting these people out of office. It's going to be done by getting to the root causes of such extreme positions, namely money in politics, gerrymandered districts, and people losing their votes with inane drug laws.

         

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          Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 12:29pm

          Re: Mini-rant

          While I can agree with most of what you posted, my point was a little more simple. That a lot of the elected officials seem to say one thing and claim to stick to it, but if you check on their back room deals and all of their votes, they won't follow through if it means they can hit a big pay-day.

           

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          toyotabedzrock (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:37pm

          Re: Mini-rant

          Yes go waste your votes lets do the 2000 election all over again.

           

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            Jay (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 1:32am

            Re: Re: Mini-rant

            2000 was stolen. We need a better voting system than the electoral college and money in politics which lead to the downfall of Rome.

             

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    Victor Lighthill, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:04am

    "Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes?"

    Simpler taxes would be less onerous to file. He's worried that if people hate filing less, they might hate paying taxes less.

     

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:06am

    "Grover Norquist"

    Just like Intuit, he's arguing against simpler taxes for his on self-interest. The only reason anyone pays attention to him is because people hate taxes. If taxes became much simpler and easier, people would have less of a reason to hate them, and less reason to listen to Norquist.

     

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      gorehound (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:52am

      Re:

      Norquist is a POS.........If I read in the papers that he had been shot I would feel no sympathy and might even go drink a shot of whiskey or something.

      And TurboTax is something I won't ever go near.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:27am

    But Intuit employs hundreds of trillions of people every year, you can't just make a change to a system that would hurt their pools of money. Think of the employees!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:32am

    name me one company or industry that isn't going to do whatever it takes to keep raking in millions even though there are simpler, more cost effective and quicker ways of doing something? add to that the 'encouragement' handed to certain quarters to ensure the system remains the top method used and you have failure all over the other ways. this method of 'encouraging' certain areas to back a method, an industry, has worked for decades concerning the USA entertainment industries. let's face it, if those industries had to prove they were the best option, they would immediately be dismal failures. it's only the fact that Senators and very powerful people who have the 'ear' of government get bribes, the services would have ceased or at least changed dramatically a long time ago!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:50am

    "Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes? "

    ANY change to the tax system that raises taxes by even 1 penny on a single American = UNACCEPTABLE DOOM TO AMERICA'S ECONOMY in Norquist's eyes, even if it cuts taxes to $0 for everyone else in America.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:57am

      Re:

      ANY change to the tax system that raises taxes by even 1 penny on a single RICH American = UNACCEPTABLE DOOM TO AMERICA'S ECONOMY in Norquist's eyes, even if it cuts taxes to $0 for everyone else in America.

      ftfy

       

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    Capt ICE Enforcer, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:11am

    I like the game.

    I like to use all the programs and randomly hits buttons until I get the big jackpot. Sorta like a game... 20 dependents or 1 dependent. Billion dollar med expense or no med expense. Decisions decisions.

     

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    Rob Pegoraro (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:19am

    Heightening the contradictions?

    My charitable interpretation would be that Norquist genuinely fears that people taking the easy way out would leave money on the table by not claiming deductions they're eligible for, thereby raising their tax rates. My uncharitable read is that he just wants to keep taxes as painful as possible, therefore increasing everybody's resentment of them--the old "heighten the contradictions" play.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which has paid Techdirt's Mike Masnick for some work and also hosts the Disruptive Competition Project blog I write for, has also backed Intuit. I agree with CCIA on other issues, but I have no idea where they're coming from on this one.

    - RP

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:17am

      Re: Heightening the contradictions?

      My charitable interpretation would be that Norquist genuinely fears that people taking the easy way out would leave money on the table by not claiming deductions they're eligible for, thereby raising their tax rates.


      I do that right now, and have for years. Because the tax system is, simply, insane. It takes a lot of time and/or money, and increases risk of an audit, to minimize your taxes. In my personal cost/benefit calculation, it's cheaper to simply overpay my taxes.

      Plus, I don't have to give a dime to companies like Intuit. I'd rather the government use that money anyway.

       

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:27am

    The Dutch tax office releases their own tax-software every year, even for the Linux and Mac platforms. And they make it so, that everyone can fill it in, but if needed a tax consultant can help out where necessary.

    Perhaps the US tax office could look into that?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:17am

      Re:

      Tax consultants cost money and helping people pay less in taxes cost money. It is political suicide for any conservatives to even think about that solution.

      It works almost exactly the same way in Scandinavia, but a very good system, it is not.

       

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    Stephan Kinsella (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:32am

    Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

    This is slimy, but there is no reason to be in favor of tax simplification. THe problem with taxes is not that they are complicated. It is that they are high. When they are high they always become complicated. Arguing for simplification is just distracting people who are overburdened from paying high taxes, by making them think "something is being done"--it's just a shell game because these changes are always "revenue neutral" or even worse.

    Meaningful tax reform is not simplification or changing from one type of tax to another. It is simply drastically lowering tax rates of whatever type of tax system is in place. And that is why the state does not propose this--it would lower their take--and instead keeps mooting cosmetic changes to keep the tax-sheeple docile. It's like the stupid marriage tax penalty. They've been promising for decades to get rid of it. Meanwhile, people keep paying it.

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:17am

      Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

      "This is slimy, but there is no reason to be in favor of tax simplification."

      Really? I attach a value to money outlaid for things like tax prep and software. I also attach value to hours spent self-prepping taxes. It seems that, unless the fear is that somehow the government info used to simplify the filing process is going to be manipulated by the government, streamlining the tax FILING process poses no threat to anyone.

      "Meaningful tax reform is not simplification or changing from one type of tax to another."

      Agreed, and I never argued otherwise.

       

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        JEDIDIAH, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:47am

        Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

        I would argue otherwise.

        As simpler system is harder to abuse. A simpler system could also reduce the size and power of the relevant government agency.

         

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          Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:06am

          Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

          As simpler system is harder to abuse. A simpler system could also reduce the size and power of the relevant government agency.

          Also, a complicated system facilitates hiding loopholes, and allows those with more financial/legal resources to better game the system.

           

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            Gwiz (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 1:38pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

            Also, a complicated system facilitates hiding loopholes, and allows those with more financial/legal resources to better game the system.

            Agreed.

            I've always thought a flat 15% (or whatever is optimal) across the board income tax would be a good idea.

            The 1040 could be as easy as this:

            Line 1: Enter amount earned in 2012:____
            Line 2: Taxes owed (Line 1 x 0.15):____

             

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            Stephan Kinsella (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 2:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

            loopholes are good. anything to allow you to avoid taxes is good. this is one problem with tax "simplification".

            I of course agree with other comments--that reducing the burden, ceteris paribus, is good. But the primary burden of taxes is not the complexity or record keeping: it's the amount. Focusing on "simplification" is giving in to their distraction.

            Consider: suppose you are paying on average 33% taxes now, after all the bullshit. You have a choice: you can just pay 45% of gross income on a postcard. No records, no nothing. Simple! What would you choose? HELLOOOOO

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 2:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

              loopholes are good. anything to allow you to avoid taxes is good. this is one problem with tax "simplification".

              Loopholes, for the most part, aren't good, because they reward some people and penalize others. People and companies end up making decisions based on tax loopholes. And people and companies with better accountants and better lawyers end up getting breaks that others don't get to take.

              Tax loopholes reward some industries and penalize other industries, and that tends to reinforce the economic status quo.

               

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 3:09pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

              Here's how loopholes work to the advantage of those who have the resources to take advantage of them.

              G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether: "Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan 'Imagination at Work' fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress."

               

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          Stephan Kinsella (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 11:02am

          Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

          "As simpler system is harder to abuse."

          Yes, and that is a bug not a feature. It's good that people are able to game the system, "abuse" it, evade or avoid taxes. If making it simpler makes it harder to evade, that is hardly an arguemnt in favor of simplification.

           

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:32am

      Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

      THe problem with taxes is not that they are complicated. It is that they are high.

      The fact that that they are complicated IS a problem. Far too much time is wasted on the paperwork involved in keeping track of what needs to keep track of. Simplify the tax system and you'll save people a lot of time, and for most of them time is money.

      Think of all the accounting that goes on in relation to taxes. Streamline that and you may end up putting a lot of accountants out of work, but that would be an improvement for most people and companies.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

        Exactly.

        Simplification would mean less waste. What does tax prep business add to the US economy? Yes there are jobs, etc, but in the end they create nothing (hence simplification is a threat) and leech money from those who do add to the economy.

         

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:44am

      Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

      This is slimy, but there is no reason to be in favor of tax simplification.

      Are you familiar with oppurtunity costs? The simplest reason for being in favor of simplification of taxes is for the amount of time wasted on them that could be better spent doing something else more productive. The resources in time, money, and frustration spent by individuals and companies just paying their taxes is enormous.

      It is that they are high.

      That statement is incorrect. Taxes are near historical lows, both in rates and actual taxes paid.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Historical_Mariginal_Tax_Rate_for_Highest_and_Lowest_Inc ome_Earners.jpg
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Effective_Corporate_Tax_Rate_1947-2011_v2.jpg
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_high-income_effective_tax_rates.png
      https://en.wikipedia.or g/wiki/File:Estate_Tax_Returns_as_a_Percentage_of_Adult_Deaths,_1982_-_2010.gif

      And compared to other developed countries, the US has very low taxes.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tax_Revenue_as_Share_of_GDP_for_OECD_Countries_in_2009. jpg
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tax-Revenues-As-GDP-Percentage-(75-05).JPG

      Everything above is from Wikipedia, but there are plenty of other sources for the data if you care to look.

       

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        FarSide (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 2:06pm

        Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

        "That statement is incorrect. Taxes are near historical lows, both in rates and actual taxes paid."

        This one looks at highest and lowest earners.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Historical_Mariginal_Tax_Rate_for_Highest_and_Lowest_Inc ome_Earners.jpg

        Corporate Taxes
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Effective_Corporate_Tax_Rate_1947-2011_v2.jpg

        High income people, again
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_high-income_effective_tax_rates.png

        This is the rate of returns, but says nothing of the actual tax rates.
        https://en.wikipedia.or g/wiki/File:Estate_Tax_Returns_as_a_Percentage_of_Adult_Deaths,_1982_-_2010.gif


        So you are talking about lower tax rates of a minority of the taxpayers in the country.

        I am not saying your statement is untrue - I don't know the fact myself. But these links don't back you up.

        Also, comparing us to the "rest of the world" is not the argument. This does not apply.

         

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          Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 8:22am

          Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

          I don't understand what you're arguing, or if you just don't understand what those graphs represent.

          The claim was made that taxes were high. I showed historical rates that show they're not. While not explicitly stated, taxes for the middle earners track the rates for the highest and lowest in a similar manner. In addition to individual tax rates, the corporate rate is also historically low, again more evidence that tax rates are not high. And yes, the tax rates as compared to other countries is important in showing that taxes are not high.

          If your opinion is that taxes are "too high" then that is your opinion. But the fact is that taxes are at some of the lowest points that they have been throughout the recent history of this country. I'm not making any value judgements on whether this is good or bad, just pointing out the facts.

           

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 8:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

            In addition to individual tax rates, the corporate rate is also historically low, again more evidence that tax rates are not high. And yes, the tax rates as compared to other countries is important in showing that taxes are not high.

            The big problem in this country is that people get stirred up about taxes, but no one wants to talk about the alternatives. If you want to cut taxes, you either cut the budget or you generate more debt.

            If you cut the budget, the economy changes, no matter what you cut. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if the government decided to suddenly eliminate taxes and also to end all government jobs, all government contracts, and all government transfer payments. The economy would collapse.

            Now, from an environmental point of view, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If there is no money, there is no consumption. People forced to live within their means would be cutting back on everything, and maybe growing food in their backyards again (assuming they still had houses with backyards).

            I tend to distrust the tax cutters because I believe once they got in control, they actually wouldn't cut taxes. They would just funnel money into the industries they wanted to support. And no one is willing to take the drastic cuts that would likely plunge the country into an economic crash. We already know that giving companies more money doesn't mean they increase capital investment or hire more people. They already have lots of money and aren't doing that. If there aren't customers, they sit on their cash. And if government spending ended, enough people would feel the effects that they wouldn't spend.

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 9:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

              I'll add if the goal is to cut taxes to put more money into the pockets of the wealthy and corporations on the assumption the economy will benefit, then the economy should already be booming because the wealthy are getting wealthier and corporations have lots of money.

               

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            Stephan Kinsella (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 9:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

            taxes are high relative to some baseline. there are various reaosnable baselines. One is what taxes ought to be: zero. By that standard taxes are high. Another is what they were in times past. By that standard they are high--compared to what king george taxed us for examlpe or taxes even in late 1800s. another standard is the amount of taxes that would be needed to fund a state that restricted itself to the core functions enumerated in the constitution--that would be a state at least 95% smaller than today's. I.e. a budget of at most $200B a year. Not $4T. Taxes needed to fund that level of state would be trivial. Our taxes are high compared to that.

            As for the comment that no one wants to cut spending--nonsense. We libertarians do.

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 10:09am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

              As for the comment that no one wants to cut spending--nonsense. We libertarians do.

              No one who hopes to be elected. If you tell people what will disappear when government spending ends, they won't elect you. Ending all government spending, especially suddenly, would throw the economy in turmoil. That sort of tough love might actually be best for the long-term survival of the planet, but most people wouldn't go for it.

               

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                Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 10:58am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

                Let's say we dismantle government. No government jobs, no government contracts, no government transfer payments. The economy crashes. The US and probably the world economy stops growing and most likely contracts. Is that bad? Maybe not. I'm not advocating an end of government (I think it is possible and desirable to have good government), but if that would actually happen, here's the potential upside. I'll toss this website out for you to consider.

                About Post Growth | Post Growth Institute: "For the last few decades the world economy has focused incessantly on growth: growth in national production, growth in profits, growth in a dizzying array of consumer items, growth in financial markets, growth in population. Across political parties and ideologies (capitalism, socialism, communism) many have come to accept the story that 'all economic growth is good'. This growth orientation has led to massive changes in terms of the relationship between humans and the earth and our relationships with each other. The growth story tells us that these changes are good, and that this is the way we will, and must, continue into the future.

                "Yet, other perspectives are emerging. "

                 

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                Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 10:59am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

                Hmm. I just posted a comment and a link to a legit website and my comment is being held for moderation. Such a bother, especially since I haven't done anything questionable.

                 

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                Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 11:24am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

                Well, I have tried to post this message three times already and it has been blocked. I'll try a fourth time without an active link.

                Eliminating all government jobs, contracts, and transfer payments suddenly would crash the US economy and probably the world economy. I'm not advocating that (I believe good government is possible and desirable).

                However, if that were to happen, there could be a sustainability benefit. Here's a website to ponder. (Hopefully my previous messages with the active link to this site will work.)

                Post Growth Institute

                 

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                  Simple Mind (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:11am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

                  You do it gradually over time... no crash. You are using the same tired arguments that keep us from actually fixing anything or doing anything beneficial. Oh, noes, if we do that all these bad things will happen. Then you paint all the extreme worst case scenarios that would happen if we were stupid about how we went about it. Conclusion: can't do it. It's off the table.

                   

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                    Stephan Kinsella (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 11:03am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

                    The problem with taxes is not that the system is complicated. It is that people are stolen from: taxed. The problem is taxes.

                     

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                      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 11:21am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

                      The problem with taxes is not that the system is complicated. It is that people are stolen from: taxed. The problem is taxes.

                      If you eliminate taxes, you eliminate much of government. Like I said, eliminate all government contracts, government jobs, and government transfer payments and see what the economy does. I can live with the result because I'd like to see global consumption go down to make for a more sustainable planet, but a lot of other people can't live with the immediate results.

                       

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                    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 11:18am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

                    You do it gradually over time... no crash.

                    But politicians won't because there are lobbies for every single tax loop. We've known the tax system needs to be fixed for decades, but we don't elect people who will do it. The politicians say what they need to say to get elected, and then in office they work for whatever corporate interests that fund their re-election campaigns.

                    I would love to see tax reform, but it isn't going to happen until we change campaign finance laws and until we have voters willing to accept change.

                     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:22am

      Re: Slimy, but tax simplification is not good

      THe problem with taxes is not that they are complicated. It is that they are high.


      I disagree. First, I disagree that taxes are too high. But even if I did think that we're overtaxed, I'd still think the fundamental problem is that the tax system is way, way too complicated.

      For any but the simplest cases, you pretty much have to hire an expert to figure your taxes. That's nuts. It should be possible to do your own taxes unless you have something really unusual going on.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    Other countries

    Here in Brazil, the tax filling software is developed by the government, and distributed for free. It is written in Java, so it will run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and everywhere else with a standard Java runtime (it used to be Windows-only, and earlier DOS-only, but was changed so us Linux users could use it easily too). This year's can be found at http://www.receita.fazenda.gov.br/PessoaFisica/IRPF/2013/declaracao/download-programas.htm if you want to take a look.

    I believe other countries' governments also publish their own tax filing software. The USA seems to be an anomaly.

     

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      RoyalPITA (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 2:29pm

      Re: Other countries

      I believe other countries' governments also publish their own tax filing software. The USA seems to be an anomaly.

      I've yet to encounter a form that I COULDN'T download from the IRS' own website. Then again, mine aren't that complicated.

      Even if mine was complicated Intuit would be the last outfit I would turn to. I'd rather pay a local CPA than Intuit.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 6:50pm

      Re: Other countries

      In Hong Kong, we used prefilled web based electronic form to declare payable taxes like 5 years already. It's surprised to know that the United States is so many years behind other countries regarding this.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:34pm

      Re: Other countries

      In Singapore too, tax is now a simple pre-filled form, that can be submitted on the web.

      Even before the form was pre-filled, it was a simple case of copying over the numbers from your employer's year-end declaration to the (single-page) tax form and then submitting it. Note that I didn't own any property, and as a foreigner I didn't have the mandatory retirement fund or other complications, but I don't think it gets much more complicated.

      I think Singapore follows the ideology of making tax as simple as possible, so NOT paying tax is harder than paying it. The first year I accrued a tax debt in Singapore, I was being lazy to actually pay it, and I got a letter from the tax department. It basically ran along the lines of "We notice you haven't paid your tax yet, and technically we could fine you for it. But tell you what, pay us by the end of the month and we'll call it square". I paid, they got their tax, I wasn't fined... everyone was happy!

      -T

       

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    BentFranklin (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:39am

    "Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes?"

    It never ceases to amaze me that people who hate taxes, because government is a waste, love the same thing if it's by a business.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Explanation: Grover Norquist is an ignorant asshole

    Really, there's no need to make this complex when the simplest and most accurate explanation will suffice.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 7:55am

    Intuit seeks to take the Intuit out of "non-intuitive".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:02am

    One possible explaination

    I've always wondered why the gov't couldn't do this. They have a lot of the information. Just correlate it and present it to me. The rub is that you need to volunteer the information. The gov't doesn't want to be seen as tax collectors presenting you with a bill. You tell them what you owe according to the law. Still, it would really nice to have that information easily imported into any tax package. It's a PITA to get things imported now.

     

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    Michael, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    Can someone please tell me why the hell Grover is fighting simpler taxes?

    I'm just glad it's Grover, not SuperGrover.

     

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    John Doe, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    Count me as an ex-TurboTax user

    I used TurboTax for 10 years but quit after they lobbied the state to end their free online filing. I sent them an email, for whatever good it would do, and told them I would never use another Intui product if I could help it. I now use another software to do my taxes.

     

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      Colin, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:12am

      Re: Count me as an ex-TurboTax user

      Looking for an alternative myself, mind if I ask what program you use?

       

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        John Doe, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:29am

        Re: Re: Count me as an ex-TurboTax user

        I have used Tax Act for the last 2 or 3 years and have no complaints. Looks and feels similar to TurboTax.

         

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 8:36am

      Re: Count me as an ex-TurboTax user

      Yes, it annoys me that they have changed the system. You used to be able to separate out the federal from the state. That way you could get the free or discounted rate for federal, and then file the state on your own without charge. Last year Turbotax wouldn't let you file the federal unless you paid for the state filing at the same time. And you didn't find that out until you had already done all the work.

       

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    Dave Nelson, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:03am

    This whole argument is sorta silly. Most states, mine included, and the IRS, provide almost automatic free filing applications on their websites. You just enter the numbers, and the page does the calculations, including supplementary forms. Unless your income structure is very complicated, in which case you already have a tax attorney or accountant to do it for you, programs like TurboTax are superfluous anyway. Sounds like more buggy whip vs auto makers squabbles to me.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:06am

    A schmuck walks into the tax preparers office say it's block something, the guy says hi I need to get my taxes prepared.
    I got a wife and 2 kids and make a combined household income of 32K.
    The block lady says that will be $149.95 but you qualify for earned income credit so if you take our EIC prepayment we will give you a check right now and all you need to do is sign here.
    So the schmuck walks out with a check and the block makes over $300 from the schmuck.
    This is the thing that the tax prep companies are fighting to keep.
    I'm all for the governments idea here, shit did I just say that, damn.

     

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    PlagueSD (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Basically, the government could give you pre-filled out forms with all the info it received from your employer and you could just review it, click okay, and be done with your taxes.


    That's pretty much how I did my state taxes. I got a letter in the mail with my CSN Number, went to the state franchise tax site, reviewed my info (that was automatically filled out from the info my employer provided) and clicked 3 buttons to file my taxes. Then I just filled out my bank info for the refund. Took all of 5 mins to do my state taxes...The Federal return was a different story...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 9:51am

    Democracy

    it's a scam.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:06am

    I just downloaded Turbo Tax for the children, hope that's okay.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    thank science

    Are we going to be boing boing soon by taking various jabs at people not on the liberal love list?
    That is about as annoying as what I call "in words", examples include "job creators", or "copyright maximalists". I try an ignore the maximalist comments on tech dirt, but I always view things like "science be praised" as an people knocking the beliefs of others. I just think it is childish and short sighted and I have always thought this site was mostly above such things. Not offended, not upset, just mentioning.

    Other than that, I will have to say the comments that mentioned Grover Norquist would become a non-issue if taxes were less infuriating are spot on. I do wonder though, if (big IF) is intentions were pure (yeah), would the ends justify the means? I don't know anything about the guy, I seriously doubt he has my best interests in mind, but I wonder what I would do in his shoes if tax reform was important to me. I guess, I hope, it would not be backing Intuit. Bunch of jackasses. ;)

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 5th, 2013 @ 8:48am

      Re:

      "Are we going to be boing boing soon by taking various jabs at people not on the liberal love list?
      That is about as annoying as what I call "in words", examples include "job creators", or "copyright maximalists". I try an ignore the maximalist comments on tech dirt, but I always view things like "science be praised" as an people knocking the beliefs of others. I just think it is childish and short sighted and I have always thought this site was mostly above such things. Not offended, not upset, just mentioning."

      Perhaps if I explain why I specifically chose that phrase, you'll think differently of it. Religions vary among people. Some are one, some are another, some have none at all. Science, on the other hand, is universal. Therefore, I was specifically trying NOT to call out anyone's beliefs by going w/a phrase that is universal instead.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 10:26am

    ...and a couple of key allies from fanning the flames of anti-government conservatives...

    Nice reporting... Would you mind telling us which key allies and anti-government conservatives you are referring to?

     

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    Androgynous Cowherd, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:13am

    Norquist's motive?

    Here's another possible charitable interpretation of Norquist's position on this: he fears that making it simpler to do your taxes, without actually making the taxes simpler, just sweeps a problem under the rug and makes it less likely it will actually be seriously addressed.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 11:30am

    It would be good to have the government provide you with what it has collected from your employeer. If someone has taken your idenity it would be easy to spot a second income under another SS #.

     

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    Rocco Maglio, Apr 4th, 2013 @ 5:32pm

    Nice Hatchet Job on Grover Norquist

    This is a very nice hatchet job you have done on Grover Norquist. You imply that he is opposing the IRS sending out completed tax forms is some form of corruption. He states that his issue is that if the IRS does your taxes they will collect more money. He also points out that if you earn less than $57,000 you are already entitled to free tax preparation. His article you are discussing that you failed to link to is located http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grover-norquist/grover-norquist-taxes_b_3005698.html?utm_hp_ref=busine ss.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 4th, 2013 @ 5:55pm

      Re: Nice Hatchet Job on Grover Norquist

      Why can't people be given the option? Why lobby against choice? If the government's forms end up ripping people off, then that will be a great selling point for TurboTax and people will use the service. But if people are happy just using a simple form, why lobby against that?

      Basically people are saying here is one way to simplify things. And yet we have companies and politicians trying to get in the way of that. It does strike people as yet another example of a big company using its money to protect its turf.

       

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