Looking forward to next April 15? Neither are we. Nobody likes paying taxes. But most Americans realize that living in this country isn't just a privilege, but a great bargain, too. Taxes come with the territory.
We write an editorial saying as much every April 15. It's almost a duty piece. But the Infernal Revenue Service is making news in May this year--a little late in the tax season. Or much too early for next year's season.
The IRS is thinking about putting together a free tax filing system. According to CNN, it plans "to launch a limited pilot program that will be available to some taxpayers next year during the 2024 tax filing season."
We'll see. The IRS can't even answer the phones these days. And don't get us started about the local IRS office we tried to get information out of--in person--last year. Oy.
The IRS announced Tuesday that it was putting together a cost and feasibility study about this free electric filing system. It sounds a lot like TurboTax but without the $40/$120/$180 options. And other filing companies can charge more.
(Your government at work: CNN reports that the Inflation Reduction Act gave the IRS $15 million "to fund a task force and conduct the study within nine months." Fifteen million dollars for a task force study!)
Taxpayers tell pollsters that 72 percent of them would like a free electronic filing system created and monitored by the IRS. But they don't use the one that the IRS offers now. Reports say that few taxpayers use the service called the Free File Program--maybe because a taxpayer has to use it through a private company. The new idea is that taxpayers could visit the IRS website themselves and click a few buttons--or a lot of buttons--to file themselves. Without the middleman.
A free electronic filing system from the IRS sounds fine, at first. Maybe. Perhaps. Conceivably. Except for one minor hang-up: Do you trust the IRS to be the tax preparer and the tax collector?
Your private tax preparer--whether it be TurboTax or H&R Block or a local agent that you've been with for 30 years--is focused on getting you all the legal deductions you're entitled to. And your lowest tax bill/biggest refund. That's the way they keep you coming back year after year: by providing a service that you're willing to pay for. Even determined to pay for. If you're going to sign your name to a tax document--on penalty of perjury!--you'd probably like a professional behind you, representing you should you be audited. Some Americans are more than willing to pay that extra full-service fee just for the peace of mind that comes from knowing a letter from the IRS can be forwarded.
But what motivation does the IRS have for keeping your tax bill low?
It seems the behemoth that is the IRS is only planning to get bigger. The Inflation Reduction Act, which was anything but, will pump $80 billion more into the IRS over the next decade. That's going to buy a lot of agents. The plan is to pay for that $80 billion--and then some--by pulling in more money from taxpayers. This is all before the nation's tax service starts maneuvering taxpayers to that form (or not that form).
And if you don't believe the IRS could ever be used for political means, you haven't been paying attention the last decade.
Did we mention a "behemoth"?
Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.
He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.
He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.
Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play.
--Book of Job, 40:15-20.
Surely the mountains bring him produce, as the New International Version puts it. Surely he'll eat all you bring him. The question is: Do you want the behemoth to decide how much?