back to article Free online tax filing? Yeah, that'll soon be illegal thanks to rare US Congressional unity

It may soon be illegal for American citizens to file their taxes online for free, as both sides of a frequently fractured US Congress united on this important issue. The move is one of the provisions in the ironically titled Taxpayer First Act, a new bill in Congress that is backed by both Democrats and Republicans and which …

  1. cmaurand

    Minor correction

    That would be the Internal Revenue Service, not the Inland Revenue Services

    disclaimer: I am in no way connected with the IRS.

    1. Fatman Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Minor correction

      Except if you have to pay boatloads of money at tax time, it is:

      Infernal.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Minor correction

      You got it wrong. It's the Infernal Revenue Service".

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Minor correction

      Another minor correction:

      "The government calculates the tax rate – and in many cases the entire filing process takes only a few minutes, as opposed to the hours and sometimes days that an American IRS filing takes."

      In the UK most people don't have to file their own taxes (our employer pays our taxes for us), so it takes us zero minutes.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Minor correction

        Yeah, about that, as I just filed mine.

        I'm for reforming the entire system, so you can file on a postcard:

        a) how much did your household earn?

        b) how many people in your household?

        c) deduct $xxxxx for each person in your household

        d) multiply the difference by XX%

        e) how much did you already pay

        f) if overpaid, here is your refund amount

        g) if underpaid, send us a check for this amount

        (you'd then staple relevant forms to the back, like for business owners, capital gains, W2s for wages, and so on, and then just mail it in, which for most people would be a single regular stamp and envelope)

        pretty simple, really. Gets rid of 'progressive' tax rates, 'preferred status' tax rates, yet still protects low income earners from having first $xxxxx taxed at all, and it taxes ALL forms of incomes the same, has NO deductions, and would only take a few minutes to file it. No using the tax code to control citizens' behavior, either, or to punish SOME people while rewarding others (i.e. targeted tax cuts and so-called 'progressive' rates nor different rates for married vs single, or deducting home purchase interest, which REALLY SUCKS for people who can only RENT for whatever reason, like houses are just TOO EXPENSIVE to own, like in Cali-Fornicate-You).

        An online IRS form could eliminate the need for TAX SOFTWARE, too. It could be free for EVERYONE.

        But yeah, fat chance, because (quote from article): "Instead, the America's 140 million taxpayers would be obliged to use fee-charging software from one of the companies that dominates the extremely profitable tax-filing market" [and their lobbying efforts]

        the whole income tax thing has been a GINORMOUS RIPOFF from the beginning.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Minor correction

          I'm tired of the idea of "Filing on a Postcard". Although there are a number of special cases in the US income tax code that should be eliminated. An "Income" tax will always be complicated because to calculate income you need to deduct expenses. Well that is unless your entire income is from regular employment. Yeah if you're nothing other than a wage slave employee, not contractor, the current form is easy,. Heck, you're probably able to use the EZ form and the only reason the EZ form is not 'postcard size' is that there are various fields and descriptions on the form, like who you worked for, and tax IDs.

          But if you have any other income it gets harder.

          There are at least 2 items that make it messy:

          1: You must be able to deduct expenses. Take something as simple as the gig economy task of charging Lime Scooters. I need to be able to deduct mileage. Fortunately mileage is easy because there is just a flat rate per mile. But what if you need a special vehicle or tools or training. And it *really* gets harder when you have some long term asset that is used up or in some way drops in value over years.

          2: The US government likes to manage payouts as "Tax Credits". Ok, this could be fixed, but it's done so they can claim that a new program is a "Tax Cut".

          Complaints about progressive rates or different tax brackets is BS. Looking up your tax on a chart is just not that hard, and if you make North of $100K you'll have other crap like deductions that make filing taxes hard.

          Oh, you now want to bring up the "Fair Tax". (AKA a Value Added Tax (VAT) ) that has loopholes big enough for even the stupidest bozo can utilize to cheat. Without an Income Tax the Fair/VAT is unenforceable. But don't get me wrong a VAT (consumption tax) is a good idea.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Minor correction

          That's a big postcard, what do you need all that for?

          In the UK, for the majority of people who's only source of income is their wage, their employer calculates their tax and sends it to the tax man (HMRC). That's it. Done.

          At the end of the year you get a single page from them saying "this year you earned £X and you were taxed £Y and National Insurance of £Z". I keep these letters but I've never needed them for anything so I could probably chuck 'em.

          The only time I had to do any more than that was when I started my first full time job after a period of doing odd jobs etc. I had to ring to get my new tax code, which took five minutes, and when it changed again, my employer sorted it for me.

  2. JassMan Silver badge

    If ever...

    proof of corruption in political circles were needed, this is it. There can be no justification in a civilized society for any company being allowed to make money out of citizens paying their taxes to the government.

    By all means allow companies to help individuals/companies fill out their return but if you already have enough knowledge/expertise to fill out the return you should never be forced to pay a leech to extract even more of your hard earned money.

    This is capitalism gone mad.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: If ever...

      Except this isn't capitalism. Capitalism is an open market, most regulations like this and the squashing of ReadyReturn keep the barriers to entry high and the market as closed as possible. Essentially this is just a new twist on control economy.

      Equally as likely that this is another case of political extortion. It usually starts with politicians essentially saying; "nice business you got there, how about you buy some lobbyists get some friends in D.C. who can provide a tithe to your kings and queens your highly valued opinions?" Sometimes they come to you, other times they send a subpoena to force you to go the them.

      Yup, just a bit of controlled economy because if it isn't controlled they can't make sure the right people get the money.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If ever...

        Does capitalism even exist as it is supposed to? You call also ask does socialism exist as it's supposed to? Just for balance.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: If ever...

          It may seem odd but the answer to both is the same; only in small groups. Once the group gets large enough there is usually some authoritarian looking for more power over the others.

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: If ever...

        No capitalism is not open or free markets. Capitalism is a system which facilitates the accumulation of wealth (capital, or as the dead German guy called it, Das Kapital) by small numbers of people or corporations, thus giving them power. The argument is that large entities are more efficient than small ones and that accumulations of large amounts of capital make things like steel mills and float glass plants possible. The counter argument is that capitalism leads to corrupt government, peonisation of the workforce, and cartels preventing competition, as e.g steel trusts or today's German car industry.

        A free market economy can exist without capitalism. Byzantium is an example - no company was allowed to grow large and so they all had to compete or co-operate across vertical markets (e.g. the potter needed to work with the guy who dug the clay). Because no player was very strong they couldn't distort the market.

        Free market capitalism is basically an oxymoron because capitalism will always distort markets, so government regulation is needed. But if the capitalists are richer than the politicians, don't expect it to work too well.

        Marx's ideas about communism were bunk but his analysis of capitalism was pretty good - he and Adam Smith would surely have agreed on more than they disputed.

        1. Keith Tayler

          Keith Tayler

          You are correct - Smith and Marx agreed on more than they disputed. One of the 'differences' was that Smith believe that the division of labour (technology) and capitalism would reduce most of humanity to deskilled idiots unless the state intervened to prevent it. Marx believed this dystopia could be avoided - after capitalism failure and revolution - by communism. So either way they still agreed that capitalism would end badly.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: If ever...

      You can still do the paperwork yourself and then put everything in an envelope and mail it in (along with a check). Most people like or want the speed of electronic filing as they get their refund quicker (or so they believe). OTOH, I need to use an accountant due to the complexity.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: If ever...

        So, a few companies came up with software to replace the form filling because the IRS didn't. Why should those companies think they have a god given right to retain that market forever? The IRS should have every right to go ahead and upgrade their paper forms to an online system.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: If ever...

          Two words... politics, lobbying.

        2. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: If ever...

          Does anyone know if the cost of the privatised tax filing service is tax-deductible?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: If ever...

            Is is deductible for my corporation. Not for my personal return.

            1. JoeTheAnnoying

              Re: If ever...

              That's incorrect. Paying for a tax preparation service *IS* tax-deductible, whether you're a corporation or an individual.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: If ever...

                Not any more. That's one of the deductions that disappeared this year

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: If ever...

                  Yes, and even last year (i.e. for tax year 2017), it was only deductible if your income was below a certain limit.

          2. lglethal Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: If ever...

            Does anybody know if the cost of bribing politicians, sorry "lobbying", is tax deductible?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If ever...

              it's a legitimate business expense to spend money on any sort of consultancy

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: If ever...

      This is capitalism gone mad doing what it knows best.

      There you go, makes more sense.

      O.

    4. prinz

      Re: If ever...

      It isn't about money. It is about POWER.

      They don't want people to be self-sufficient.

      They want people dependent -- upon them in government and their business friends.

      That is why it is bi-partisan : the Elite in America want to re-create aristocracy - they want serfs!

      To get serfs you have to make them dependent.

      This is yet another micro-step towards building that dependency.

  3. nil0

    Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

    Time to fill in my tax return. Oh, hang on, no, don't need to.

    The taxman already knows all the relevant numbers from my employer, and the tax has already been worked out and gets deducted automatically from my monthly pay without me having to do anything.

    Last year was a bit more complicated - had to do a full tax return. Filled it in and submitted it online on HMRC's website; took about 20 minutes and cost £0.

    This is another one of those situations where the rest of the world stares open-mouthed in disbelief at how America does things (q.v. guns, healthcare, party politics, and the use of the word "burglarize").

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

      >cost £0

      The very definition of communism !

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

      Curiouis here. How does that work if you're self-employed? Or a contracted employee? Due to the complexity of tax system and/or the time it would take me to fill out all the forms, I currently us an accountant. Very reasonable and very thorough. I used him and one of the big two some years ago, and he came up with the lower tax due to the other just being "one size fits all" type of place.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

        Self-employed and/contractors are still the minority.

      2. cornetman

        Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

        Like in other places, your best bet is to use an accountant or one of the various tax return preparation companies.

        Avoids a load of stress and aggro and they generally know a lot more about the loopholes and other advantages that save tax than the ordinary person could possibly know.

        For the average wage slave, there should really be no need for any paperwork, since for most people the tax situation is very formulaic.

        1. VikiAi Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

          Very much. The only 'thinky' thing I have to do for my tax is keep the invoices for my deductible work expenses (tools, materials and protective clothing) in order.

        2. Paul Smith

          Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

          "Your best bet is to use an accountant"... Oh no it isn't. When my accountant wanted to charge me double what we had agreed at the start of the year, refused to confirm or deny third party advice that would have saved me significant amounts, and then when HMRC voluntarily gave me a significant tax rebate that I hadn't asked for, I decided to try and do my accounts myself. The first year was a little scary, but after that, no dodgy third party with dubious fees and I pay less tax.

          1. cornetman

            Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

            Perhaps I should have qualified that by saying it's best using an account that isn't a crook.

      3. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

        Last time I was self employed it took me about 20 minutes to fill in my return, and I had a savings account with my 'expected' tax bill in it.

        When I got my actual tax bill, I also got a couple of grand "bonus" since I had (deliberately) overpaid into that account.

        If you keep reasonable accounts (no need for an accountant, although some basic accounting skills are useful) and have a reasonably simple employment schedule then it's pretty easy.

        The VAT forms however...

      4. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

        I used an accountant to manage the statutory stuff for my PSC, company accounts, payroll employeres liabilities etc. He chucked in a personal tax return within the fee for all of the company officers/shareholders but the return was pretty trivial. I was required to do one for some years about a decade ago when I was employee and it was simple then. The figures all came from P60/P11D plus some trivial investment income. The online form and associated notes led me through it with ease. I think I got a refund of a few hundred pounds most years. I think that was mostly down to a frequently changed company car

    3. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

      Except it didn't actually cost £0, it cost a lot of money that was paid to Capgemini and other companies to produce the system, and you're now paying the interest on the debt that was raised to pay for it as part of your tax bill each month.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

        Except it didn't actually cost £0

        OK, so on average it cost each of us £10-15 a year, or whatever that actually works out to when spread across the population with an income. And if you're earning less than the personal tax allowance it only cost you a thousandth* or so of whatever you paid in indirect taxes in a year. Sounds like money well spent to me.

        *I've no idea what it costs to run PAYE but £700m out of the Government's annual spending of ~£700bn should be on the right order of magnitude.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Id didn't cost you £0"

        No system costs £0. Even the paid for by businesses one, at some point, must enter a government system, that has cost.

        So it will have tax costs, social cost, or governmental cost at some point. But the discussion is as to if it has additional cost on top of that, which in this case was £0.

        So your point is?

    4. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

      > This is another one of those situations where the rest of the world stares open-mouthed in disbelief at how America does things

      True, but should this legislation pass, how long before the lobbyists money starts trickling across the pond?

      The whole Making Tax Digital thing on VAT as a case in point - HMRC won't produce free software to do the submission, and is closing off the rather simple VAT return portal to those businesses that have to switch to this scheme, and will roll it out to everyone, and will then increase the scope of it to include uploading individual transactions.

      Perhaps this will decrease VAT fraud (e.g. the carousel crowd), but at what cost to both HMRC and to UK plc (and what benefit to corporate accounting software houses)?

    5. Wilseus

      Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

      "Last year was a bit more complicated - had to do a full tax return. Filled it in and submitted it online on HMRC's website; took about 20 minutes and cost £0."

      I'm in the same boat as you now, because I let my house amongst other things.

      I was determined to do it myself, however after spending a large part of a weekend tearing my hair out and not doing much for my already high blood pressure, I called an accountant to do it all for me.

      Best £300 I ever spent, and I can claim 40% of that back next year.

    6. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Oh, it's a new tax year here in the UK

      "Oh, hang on, no, don't need to."

      They're finally getting around to implementing "impôt sur revenue" here in France. The amount payable (based upon last year) is deducted monthly and everything is supposed to be simplified.

      My cow-orkers were surprised when I told them about PAYE and how I'd been doing that my entire working life in the UK.

  4. Dal90

    The year I filled out -- by hand -- three states plus federal taxes, I did appreciate Rhode Island's sense of humor:

    https://imgur.com/gallery/VCzAzht

    I'm single, small mortgage (2/3rds paid off), low property taxes, no kids, decent salary -- with the new $12,000 standard deductible I should be able to drop back to the 1040A "short form" because I can't add up enough expenses to bother itemizing anymore.

    Absolutely silly I have to either transcribe to paper for free or pay a tax prep firm for the privilege of performing data entry for them in order to file online...when the state & federal revenue agencies already have the paperwork covering what I need to report.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Absolutely silly I have to either transcribe to paper for free or pay a tax prep firm for the privilege of performing data entry for them in order to file online...when the state & federal revenue agencies already have the paperwork covering what I need to report."

      As I recall, it's a double-entry check-and-balance against underreporting income and the taxes associated with it. If you contract or self-operate a business, it gets much more complicated very quickly because now you have to declare and pay those taxes yourself (plus you lack the benefit of the 50/50 split).

      Federal PDF forms for years have actually included form blanks meaning a compatible PDF reader would allow you to fill them out on your computer, print them out all nice and neat, and mail them off yourself. That's how I've been doing my taxes for the last several years. Check to see if your state has form-fielded PDF tax forms as well (I know Virginia's PDF are form-fielded).

    2. AdamWill

      but...

      "did appreciate Rhode Island's sense of humor:"

      of course, those faces represent *the government's* emotions. If you owe taxes, you effectively got an interest-free loan from the state for a few months. If you're getting a "refund", you gave the state an interest-free loan for a few months...

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: but...

        It's not interest free (although any interest you receive on tax refunds is taxable income and will have to be posteriorly declared... how recursive of them)

  5. J.Goodwin

    The IRS not having their own software for filing doesn't prevent most US taxpayers from e-filing for free using online software. The existing vendors offer free filing to those under 66k USD income, as they have for years (at varying dollar amounts).

    The one that was painful to me was when my own state changed online filing systems and eliminated the system used for individuals in favor of "enhancing" the one for businesses. I was kind of hoping they would have remediated that by now, but no such luck. Now I have to *shudder* put a stamp on an envelope and walk all the way to my front door then lean out and raise the flag on my mailbox to avoid paying 20 dollars for e-filing.

    1. rcxb

      The IRS keeps a list of such free services it directs the public to:

      https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/

      One of them even eliminated the income cap for federal returns (if you sidestep the prompts to upgrade to the paid service) although they have a similar income cap for free state returns.

      The (relatively insignificant) state taxes are an entirely different issue. 9 states have none. Several of the others provide a service for free filing of your state tax forms, with no income cap.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "The (relatively insignificant) state taxes are an entirely different issue. 9 states have none."

        That's because seven of them don't charge personal income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Most of them raise their revenues either through property taxes (better suited for sparsely-populated states like Alaska or Wyoming) or sales taxes (Florida and Nevada are tourist-heavy; sales taxes are better suited to capturing revenues from out-of-state visitors).

      2. It's just me

        That list only applies if your adjusted income is less then $60000. There is the https://www.freefilefillableforms.com/ site which allows you to fill in and file your federal returns for free. https://www.creditkarma.com/tax also provides free state and federal tax filing.

    2. joed

      It's not just paying fee for something that should have already been covered by taxed we pay. It's sharing financial data with these greedy a..holes at tax prep behemoths that irks me. The reason I've been filling up paper forms for years as the problem is not new but has just extended into foreseeable future (and similarly to Micky mouse copyright "initiative" should be labelled with the name of major backers). I can only see time when they block states from providing the service (similarly to telcos blocking municipalities from providing basic Internet access).

      If anyone needed another proof that our 2 party system is just a smokescreen, there it is.

  6. Daedalus Silver badge

    TANSTAAFL!

    Sure you want the government creating, or paying for the creation of, software to let you file online. I mean, that has worked out real well in other areas, hasn't it?

    And before the UK govt. went over to the current system, UK pundits were lauding the economy of the US system (this was over 40 years ago, I admit) for its lack of a huge self-serving bureaucracy and the accompanying expense.

    Also, the USA has a somewhat more complex taxation structure than the UK. You could, depending on your location, be dealing with Federal, State, and City income tax. This is particularly true of "Da City", aka New York, but also applies to Yonkers and elsewhere. Then there are the, until recently, generous deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes, educational expenses etc. And there's investment income.... But Jo Schmo really only has to file the 1040EZ form which, providing he works a regular job as his sole source of income, takes little time and doesn't require Turbo Tax.

    And finally, the USA does not have the VAT man breathing down everyone's neck!

    1. cornetman

      Re: TANSTAAFL!

      The tax system in the UK is very different from the one I find myself participating in in Canada.

      When I worked in the UK, I never once had to fill in a tax return. As an employee of a regular company, everything was done automatically. You only have to fill in a return if you are self-employed or have an unusual tax situation.

      Here in Canada, there are lots of deductions available for regular folks. That reflects a different attitude where the government uses deductions as incentives for political and moral ends. Until recently, we could get a deduction from our use of public transit passes to encourage the use of transit. For most people in the UK, this is just not true.

      One of the cool things that we have in Canada, which prevents a lot of the heartache and pain during a bereavement is that there is no inheritance tax. That's something that has been a big boon for use this past year.

      1. cdegroot

        Nothing new...

        Still, as a relatively new inhabitant of the Greath North, I don't find it that much more complicated than my returns I formerly did in the Netherlands. There are differences and it feels slightly more complex, but if you keep some minimal receipts (health, charity/political contributions) and pre-fill from the info that the CRA already has accumulated from your employer and your bank, you're done in an hour. Friendly people on the phone, too, when I was locked out from their on-line services.

        (in the Netherlands, I think there's an app for that - your return is prefilled, you log in with government id, and press "yup, that's about right" ;-)).

        1. AdamWill

          Re: Nothing new...

          "but if you keep some minimal receipts (health, charity/political contributions) and pre-fill from the info that the CRA already has accumulated from your employer and your bank, you're done in an hour"

          hah. try putting some of your savings in investments sometime. I love tax time - it's that time of year I lose an entire weekend to obtuse capital gains calculations.

          that year I bought Motorola shares and it split into two different companies and then one of those companies got bought out by someone else...woo boy, that was a fun one.

        2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Minimal receipts...

          Political contributions? You get a tax discount for political contributions? What possible justification might that have?

          Colour me boggled.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: TANSTAAFL!

      FTR, the IRS got rid of the alternate 1040 forms this year. Now, Form 1040 is essentially Form 1040EZ and is meant to be the goto form for most people with basic jobs. The idea is that your return only gets more complicated if your tax situation gets more complicated.

    3. VikiAi Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: TANSTAAFL!

      Australia's online filing is about the only thing I have ever seen our government get significantly right! It is easy, it is fast, it works.

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    America

    Land of the free, defenders of democracy.

    Disclaimer: Free(dom) comes at a price and depends on the quality you pay for.

    Democracy, likewise is index linked and may be curtailed depending on contribution levels.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: America

      Well, we do have the best government money can buy. Which this article proves again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: America

        I'm just glad that we don't get the government that we pay for....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Note that although you can't use fancy free software to file online if you're above $60k, you can use Free File Fillable Forms to file taxes online.

    It's like using paper forms, but with derived values calculated for you.

    My tax affairs are simple, and I use a spreadsheet with my W-2s etc on to do the simple additions I need so that online data entry is quick.

    Free File Fillable Forms are provided by one of the tax prep companies in a bribe to the IRS for _not_ producing their own system.

    With a change in the law this could end and I'd have to go back to paper, because I'd rather do that than pay less than the price of an envelope and stamp to a tax preparation company..

    My state taxes are entered online using the state's system.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another milestone...

    ... towards the day my wife will finally use her passport as toilet paper and send it off to Washington, with a "you can take this dual citizenship and shove it".

  10. Garymrrsn

    Taxes

    Taxes have existed ever since some enterprising despot realized that it would be fiscally advantageous to have his subjects finance their own subjugation.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Taxes

      Yes but even the most medieval of monarchs didn't come up with the idea of charging you a fee to pay them.

  11. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Someone LART the editor

    Wasn't this story meant to go to press last Monday?

  12. bigtimehustler

    Would you or the IRS then be allowed to write software which basically pre filled the paper form for print off and post? May sidestep this but still cut into the software companies profits.

  13. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Mailing to Byzantium. It shouldn't be their world.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Et tu, Brute?

    "There is also a companion bill in the Senate that contains the same provision and also has bipartisan backing with Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and, surprisingly, Ron Wyden (D-OR) introducing it."

    Why Ron?

    I used to think of you as one of the "Good Guys™"

    (Lobbyist's have destroyed this country)

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Et tu, Brute?

      He's good in some areas but in this case no one seems to have a clue why he went for this. Unless the committee got to rewrote it and out voted him. But then...it's Congress. Who knows who has something on someone.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Et tu, Brute?

      It's a complicated bill - as they all are - and there may well be other provisions that, in his opinion, outweigh this one. That seems to be Lewis's reasoning. Not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and all that.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ironically titled Taxpayer First Act

    That is an old tactic used to trick voters that did not read the bills they were voting on.

    Using titles to laws that sound good but mean the exact opposite.

    See also: Clean water ACT, Patriot ACT etc.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: ironically titled Taxpayer First Act

      As a rough guide the more spin in the title the worse the effects of the bill

      If they ever announce a "Patriot, Apple-Pie, Mom and puppies" ACT - run for the hills

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: ironically titled Taxpayer First Act

      Not designed to fool just voters who have no say in these acts but also the CongressCritters who never read or understand what they're voting on.

      Maybe the original title was Do it to the Taxpayer Frist Act?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: ironically titled Taxpayer First Act

        Also designed to make it impossible for elected officials to vote against them.

        My opponent voted against the "Apple-pie and mom act"

        But it authorised the use of nuclear weapons in kindergartens !

        My opponent is against Apple pie and Moms

        Did anyone dare vote against the Patriot ACT ?

  16. Someone Else Silver badge
    Holmes

    What's in a name?

    The move is one of the provisions in the ironically titled Taxpayer First Act, [...]

    Those of you on the right side of the Pond might be surprised to learn that, here in the Colonies, our Government has refined the art of Titular Misdirection to a very fine point. (Or not....) So you can be assured that anything labeled the Taxpayer First Act will ensure that the Taxpayer so identified will find him/herself trailing the elephants in the parade.

    1. mtfrank

      Re: What's in a name?

      I remember when a NASA rocket blew up on the launch pad. Instead of just saying it exploded, they said it was a "failure to meet mission requirements".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's in a name?

        I still find the euphemism “unexpected rapid disassembly” particularly amusing…

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    Flame

    Lobbyists worse than Lawyers

    Lobbying should be outlawed, and punishable by death.

    1. Trollslayer Silver badge

      Re: Lobbyists worse than Lawyers

      Eventual death.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Lobbyists worse than Lawyers

        Lobbying groups put you in a bind by hiring lobbyists who are spouses or kin to the people actually in Congress, meaning anything that threatens to blocks lobbyists will threaten critical family connections as well, creating a moral quandry.

        1. Justicesays

          Re: Lobbyists worse than Lawyers

          "Lobbying groups put you in a bind by hiring lobbyists who are spouses or kin to the people actually in Congress, meaning anything that threatens to blocks lobbyists will threaten critical family connections as well, creating a moral quandry."

          What, the quandary between accepting dubious lobbying cash or speaking to your parents/siblings? Just like all those people torn between lucrative criminal activities or lower paying legitimate work eh?

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Lobbyists worse than Lawyers

            But what if the lobbyist is your spouse...and you have kids? Plus there's the whole First Amendment thing.

  18. joeldillon

    'and in many cases the entire filing process takes only a few minutes, as opposed to the hours and sometimes days that an American IRS filing takes.'

    In the UK, if you're just some random schmoe working in a salaried job without stocks and shares etc to worry about, there is no filing at all. It's automatic.

  19. David Neil

    Weird rules

    I'm married to an American citizen who lives in the UK.

    She has to file a tax return for investments she has left in the US.

    She has to pay for a third party to do her return, because if she attempts to use the free route they insist on attempting to assign me a Taxpayer Id Number, even though I've never lived or worked in the US.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weird rules

      Even if she claimed to be Married Filing Separately?

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Weird rules

      Don't ever let that happen. Once it does, you could be considered a "US Person" and subject to US taxes. That's not citizenship, it's just the greedy bastards getting their hooks in. That sort of thing has happened to Canadian snowbirds that fly south for the winter to Florida time shares or vacation property.

  20. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Are we surprised at the US government pulling this stunt? After all the US requires it's citizens to file tax returns even if they are no longer living in the US.

    https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/us-citizens-and-resident-aliens-abroad-filing-requirements

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      After Tina Turner relinquished her US citizenship, The Man® has made it harder. If you are a US citizen and want to emigrate to another country and give up US citizenship, you have to pay an Exit Tax and meet with some pansy from the State Department for an interview, twice! It's worth it if you will be living outside of the US for the foreseeable future to not have to pay US taxes on money you earn and spend in another country.

  21. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Is tax filing a deductable expense?

    Are the charges for using the tax company 'service' deductible expenses or another tax on a tax?

    It seems to me (reading this thread) that there is just enough of an alternative if you can find the right door marked 'Beware of the Leopard'.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Is tax filing a deductable expense?

      Tax preparation services and software IIRC ARE a qualified expense and can be itemized in deductions. Thing is, most people can't itemize enough deductions to beat the standard deduction, making the point moot.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Is tax filing a deductable expense?

        Tax prep is no longer a deductible expense in the US. That includes tax software software. Use a small shop and get a receipt that doesn't show what the software is and deduct it anyway.

    2. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
      Unhappy

      Re: Is tax filing a deductable expense?

      There used to be a way. Try to follow...

      IF you itemized deductions (has to be more than standard deduction),

      AND IF your "miscellaneous" deductions (there was a list), including tax prep/filing fees, was over 2% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI),

      THEN yes, it would count.

      But in addition to raising the standard deduction, making most itemization moot, recent acts did away with most, if not all, of the "miscellaneous" deductions, tax filing included.

  22. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Facepalm

    America

    Land of the Freemium.

  23. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Flame

    The land of the free

    To be exploited.

  24. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    "the IRS is in a position to simplify tax filing for millions of Americans"

    Yeah, that would be nice. Instead, I shall be submitting a request for reimbursement of medical expenses incurred when I slipped in the irony dripping from that title statement.

    Not only is the US Tax system "unnecessarily complex" as you succinctly put it, but it's about to get even MORE ridiculous. Form W4 is what one fills out when beginning or changing employment and when filing conditions change such as marriage, the birth of a child, etc. This form is WAS a simple card to indicate how many individual deductions you are claiming so that your tax witholding can be calculated as reasonably close as possible. Beginning this year, that form becomes nearly as complex as the annual 1040 Tax Return form we all must fill out every April. And instead of simpler 1040 versions for simple tax situations, there is now only one form version - the long one, of course.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: "the IRS is in a position to simplify tax filing for millions of Americans"

      You DO know that Form 1040 has just become tremendously SIMPLER this year, which would mean form W-4 should become simple, too, by your own statement?

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: "the IRS is in a position to simplify tax filing for millions of Americans"

        "You DO know that Form 1040 has just become tremendously SIMPLER this year"

        My fresh-out-of-university son who had been filing 1040EZ the last few years would disagree with that statement. My own experience is that the "new" 1040 seems simpler because the threshold for itemizing deductions is now harder to reach and therefore many more people than before just take the standard deduction. That has the net effect of simplifying the process and shaving hours off required completion time. However, the actual 1040 form itself was only slightly simpler to me while the new W4 adds three extra pages of worksheet/instructions than before.

  25. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
    Thumb Up

    Unpaid advertisement

    I changed tax prep/filing providers this year from a paid one (TaxAct.com) to completely free, including state -- Credit Karma Tax. You do have to know what you're doing, but there's no income cap or other restrictions.

    Yes, I know they're run by a credit bureau (or two). Yes, they're loving having my income data. But they had some of that anyway, so what am I really losing?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unpaid advertisement

      Do they try to upsell you? Do they handle all forms?

      1. It's just me
        Thumb Up

        Re: Unpaid advertisement

        No, on the upsell, for tax filings at least. They do make you create an account on their main site where they make their money by offering you various credit cards and other such offers you may qualify for. They handle a large number of additional forms. The only problem I ran into with them was they wouldn't let me directly apply my refund to my 2019 estimated taxes (I'm self-employed, so have to pay quarterly). So I used CreditKarma to fill out all my tax forms, then exported them to pdf, then went to www.freefilefillableforms.com and copied the numbers into the forms on that site and electronically filed them from there. CreditKarma also does free state filing as well, but since I didn't file through them I just copied the numbers from their forms into my state's web filing portal.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I tried these services for the first time last week...

    I did filing for my son for the first time as a favor (he's busy with school and work). I tried the big name first - TurboTax. It misinterprets the tax code for a key education tax credit worth nearly $1000 and didn't allow us to claim it. I checked the law. I checked the IRS paper form. I checked the IRS instruction booklet. Intuit's coders apparently cannot read and understand English very well. So I was going to report it to Inuit but I would have had to spend another $60 beyond the first $60 I'd agreed to (unnecessarily) in order to communicate with a live rep. I declined their gracious offer to accept my bug report for a fee and aborted the process.

    To their credit, they do retrieve W-2 info automatically from (presumably) the IRS after you do some identification/authentication. A little unnerving, but convenient.

    Then I used the IRS web site to find the other services. Settled on a rinky dink one called 1040now that has an atrociously decorated web site with an awful UI. I had to manually enter the info on the W-2's. But it worked and I stumbled through the process and filed federal for free. They clipped me for $17.95 to do the state (NJ) filing. Alright. So a day later I checked status to see federal as ACCEPTED and NJ as SUBMITTED. Whatever that means. I'll have to check again soon but I've got get my own material to my regular tax guy who will charge me about $350. Pheh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I tried these services for the first time last week...

      "they do retrieve W-2 info automatically from (presumably) the IRS after you do some identification/authentication. A little unnerving, but convenient."

      TurboTax, et al., retrieve W-2 and 1099s from payroll processors, such as ADP, and financial services providers, such as Schwab, E-Trade, and others.

  27. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Govt software

    I really don't understand what the private tax software companies are worried about. I mean, it would be software **written by a government agency**....

    Even if it ever exited beta (or even alpha), it would be years behind schedule, and wouldn't work right anyway. What BETTER way to make their own crappy, piss-poor software look *better* than to have something even worse from the Federal Government to compare it to.

  28. crlamke

    I don't see where this bill bans the IRS Free File Program. Seems to say the opposite.

    Where in the House version of the bill is the IRS prohibited from maintaining its free filing program? Part of the bill passed by the House is below:

    <<<

    1102.IRS Free File Program

    (a)In general

    (1)The Secretary of the Treasury, or the Secretary’s delegate, shall continue to operate the IRS Free File Program as established by the Internal Revenue Service and published in the Federal Register on November 4, 2002 (67 Fed. Reg. 67247), including any subsequent agreements and governing rules established pursuant thereto.

    (2)The IRS Free File Program shall continue to provide free commercial-type online individual income tax preparation and electronic filing services to the lowest 70 percent of taxpayers by adjusted gross income. The number of taxpayers eligible to receive such services each year shall be calculated by the Internal Revenue Service annually based on prior year aggregate taxpayer adjusted gross income data.

    >>>

    Link to this text - https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr1957/text/eh#link=I_B_1102_a_1&nearest=HB2D4DD9E2F0F4B118EC024CE402CC5BB

  29. fraunthall

    The political 'Swamp' that still hasn't been drained.

    If ever any proof was needed to skewer the Democrats and the Republicans as what President Trump calls the 'SWAMP' that needs draining and fumigating, this is it. The bureaucrats at the IRS are obviously trying to make things easier for both themselves and the beleagured and harrassed tax victims of Congress had a brilliant idea. Too bad. It is not permitted because the crooked and corrupt politicians of both major parties rallied to protect their true constituencies - the blood-sucking corporations who produce tax filing software at, no doubt, an enormous profit. If Trump is awake and looking he should veto this legislation 'toot sweet', to use a foreign popular phrase.

  30. Curly4
    Alert

    Just think it could be that we will not have to file an income tax return in the near future. As the present politics is going that time may not be very far in the future. At the present time it is a privilege to file an income tax return but as the government goes socialists we will not have a reason to do that. The progressives namely, Bernie Sanders, of taking over all health care insurance later to be extended to the health care itself if it proves feasible then why not extend that to other industries also. Just think of how much revenue the government would have if it had all the profits of industry in the US now. If the government owned the industry it could pay its employees what it wants to and since the government owns all industry there would no longer be any investment industry to invest in US domestic companies since there is no private industry. The government would already know how much person makes and could adjust the taxes each have to pay so that there would no longer be a tax return. Everything needed would be provided to the workers so there may not need to have income beyond because what is

    needed to live is provided. If a person needs something the government would provide or it will not be needed. There would no longer be a need for politicians nor would there be any money to give to them so they could win an election. It will become that there will be an elite group of people that will run the government and we the people will have nothing to do with that group other than maybe at the most vote candidates that is on the list. But I guess for now we will have to wait a decade or three to see how it works out.

  31. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Accuracy

    TurboTax and H&R block are likely better at creating filing software than the IRS will ever be at it. It would be outsourced to the lowest bidder and would come with no guarantees the same way that if you call the IRS or visit an office to get help with your taxes, they make it clear that if the advice one of their employees gives is incorrect, you are responsible for the fines and penalties. The commercial vendors have to be far more careful or the media storm and blood sucking lawyers would kill them off.

    The IRS UI would also be government spec and anybody that uses government websites for anything will understand how bad that would be. It also wouldn't work with a modern browser. They'd recommend (or require) that you use Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator (no joke, I've seen that recommendation in the last 6 months). Forget Safari and for Firefox, you'd have to find an older version.

    I prefer paper. It makes them work harder if they are thinking of auditing me.

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