If you’re finishing up your income tax return at the last minute and frustrated by this annual ritual of busywork, you should know about a bill that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced last spring that would make doing taxes vastly easier for Americans — and would strongly push back against the tax prep industry’s attempts to keep taxes difficult.
The Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2017 would order the IRS to create a free online tax preparation and filing service comparable to TurboTax or other commercial programs. Moreover, it bans the agency from working with the tax prep companies, as it’s been doing for years.
Currently, the IRS collaborates with tax software providers (mainly Intuit, which sells TurboTax) on what’s called the Free File program. The program is supposed to provide free access to commercial software for low- and medium-income taxpayers. But because the eligibility rules are so complicated and the system is so poorly advertised, only 3 percent of taxpayers use it, and the National Taxpayer Advocate has repeatedly called for the program’s abolition.
Warren’s bill would kill the corrupt, feckless Free File program for good. But it goes further than that. Best of all, it establishes a new “return-free” filing option that would send millions of Americans with simple tax situations a pre-prepared tax return, which they can submit unchanged if they like. Warren isn’t the first person to propose this.