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The U.S. Must Simplify Tax Filing, 147 Groups Tell Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent today supporting legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), 147 groups called on lawmakers to simplify the tax filing process.

American taxpayers spend an average of 13 hours doing their taxes and often pay $200 or more for paid filing services. Families’ financial and mental well-being would be greatly improved by implementing reforms included in this legislation, including return-free filing – where taxpayers’ wages and data are pre-filled by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“The bill requires the IRS to provide people with their preliminary tax returns pre-populated with wage and other data that is already collected through information reporting. Moreover, under this legislation, taxpayers with simple returns could choose to have their returns actually prepared by the government. This would both reduce the financial burden on families who are struggling to make ends meet and would also reduce the errors and other problems that collectively add to the IRS’s backlog,” the letter reads.

The groups, which include organizations dedicated to promoting the well-being of children and families and advancing social, racial, gender, disability, and worker and economic justice, additionally called on the IRS to terminate the corporate-run Free File partnerships, which are ripe for self-dealing and confusing to navigate. Further reforms in this bill would include better technological means to access credits and benefits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The letter urges that a publicly-run free filing system be at the leading edge of the agency’s modernization. The groups call on the IRS to build upon its efforts to ensure families and individuals can access critically important benefits and credits by expanding and improving the streamlined tax benefits non-filer portal.

“The IRS must step up and reform the tax filing system so that it works better for everyone,” said Susan Harley, managing director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “People with simple taxes should not have to worry about cutting into their returns to pay for an expensive tax preparation software or professionals. The IRS could implement return-free filing today and put an end to the corporate-run Free File program, yet the agency sits on its hands. We applaud this legislation, and hope Congress continues to push for real changes at IRS to simplify the tax filing system.”