It's time for a return-free filing option in the U.S.!
By Susan Harley
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) serves the American people, and it is great to know that after decades of being starved for resources, the agency finally received an important dose of nearly $80 billion in funding through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Of course, this is the money the House Republicans came out swinging at the moment they had power. Definitely not trying to protect the ability of corporations and rich folks—who just happen to be big donors—from being audited by the agency that has been so stretched for resources that it has until only recently had a very hard time just answering the phones. [Wink emoji]
Yes, the IRS absolutely needs to be focusing on auditing the wealthy and tax-dodging corporations that make up most of the tax gap—the amount of money that’s owed the government every year but not collected. And it’s true there are a lot of folks retiring from the agency and some major technology upgrades that need to be made. But to better serve taxpayers with this important investment from the IRA—funded by taxpayers, it should be noted—the IRS must make it a priority to make it easier for us to handle paying our taxes.
Not only can filing your taxes be stressful, time-consuming and expensive, but millions of people are also losing out on the credits and benefits that they are owed, like the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), because the process of tax filing can be so confusing. That’s money that could be helping make better the lives of the people who need it the most, but sadly right now people just don’t know they’re eligible.
Luckily, the IRS can do something to fix that. It can do our taxes for us! *
* Those of us who have simple taxes where the government could take information from employers and its own records and easily pre-populate our preliminary returns and we just OK them. This would take away the burden of doing the math and figuring out what goes where on the forms or worrying about entering information correctly in an online software.
Taxpayers in other countries have the opportunity to elect this type of “return-free filing,” and people in America deserve a similar option. In fact, the IRS was empowered to provide this service to American taxpayers when the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 became law. It obviously was never implemented.
Sure, IRS has a Free File program, but not a lot of people know about it and only certain people can access services to help taxpayers fill out the forms. And, what about the people who were upsold to a paid product when trying to use Free File with a partner corporation, in what some, like say the government, might call a scammer-like style?
On the plus side, the IRS was required by Congress as a condition of getting the IRA funding to do a report on providing a free e-file option run by the government that is expected in May. However, that’s only half of the equation. While a free government-run e-file program would be great, it would be even better to not have to do your taxes at all. Not only would that save taxpayers time and stress, but it would also save the IRS from having to fix little mistakes that are bound to happen, even by the most well-meaning of filers.
Public Citizen is taking to the streets to talk directly to American taxpayers about whether they would like the IRS to do their taxes every year for them for free. Guess what their answer is? You can join your fellow American taxpayers in calling on the IRS to do your taxes!
Considering this is something so many people around the world just take for granted, giving millions of Americans the option of having one less thing to worry about seems like a no-brainer.
In fact, I’d say it’s about damn time.