In some countries, the equivalent of their IRS sends citizens a form listing what they owe. In California, the state has a program called ReadyReturn that lets you do this for California state taxes. You sign it and send it back, and it takes a few minutes. But for most of us, this isn’t how it works. We gather our tax forms and various banking information, and spend the weekend facing a difficult bureaucratic set of forms, hoping we did it all correctly. Or we use a costly tax filing service or software.
Candidate Barack Obama promised to end this nightmare. He said he would “dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes.” The IRS would use information it “already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return.” Experts, he said, estimated this would save 200 million total hours or work and $2 billion.
You can file this under yet another broken campaign promise. And why? Who doesn’t like an idea that is so simple and convenient and just generally helpful? Well, the large software makers, for one.