VICTORY! New Free File rules ban tax-prep firms from hiding their offerings, allow IRS to compete with them (a love-letter to Propublica)

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/31/go-propublica-go.html

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And don’t forget their excellent work on how the Navy has blamed a series of major collisions on low level people to cover up systemic understaffing and broken IT. Their animated reconstructions of the control systems were one of the better uses of that web design trend I’ve seen.

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The People Have The Power

Sing it Patty!

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Great news & great article. Thanks Mark; article tags were icing on the cake!

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Deadmau5 cult?

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Thank you Cory for reporting on this. I just went to the ProPublica website and made a long overdue donation.

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the IRS has announced a competing program yet, or even that such a program is in development. There’s still plenty of time for lobbyist fuckery.

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in most wealthy countries, the tax authority fills out your tax return for you, using the information your employer already has to file every time it pays your wages. If all the numbers look right to you, you just sign the bottom of the form and send it back,

You have to sign a form and post it? Sounds like a pain in the arse.
In the UK, generally your employer pays your taxes, and that’s it. You take your P45 form from your old job to whoever does payroll at your new job, and they sort it all out for you.

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This sounds like great progress, and ProPublica deserves a lot of credit for their great work. But the same eligibility requirements for Free File still apply, right? So someone making more than $66k a year wouldn’t qualify?

I make more than $66k a year (yeah, you don’t need to feel sorry for me) and I hate these tax prep companies for all the reasons outlined above, so I’ve always done my taxes by hand out of principle. I use the IRS “Free Fillable Forms” which is just the same old paper forms in a very clunky digital format. A huge and unnecessary waste of time and effort. By comparison, the California Franchise Tax Board free digital filing system is much easier and more streamlined to use.

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Well, your employer withholds taxes and sends them to the IRS and most actual filings are electronic now but, as a tax professional? The system currently in place supports the predatory practices of places like the above-mentioned tax companies which churn out returns by the truckload for people paying $50-$100 each who require nothing but some numbers transferred onto a form.

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I hope not. I’d rather they send them to HMRC, because I’m a brit working in Britain :slight_smile:
Also, ‘withhold’ is a rather strong way of putting it, I prefer “my employer pays my taxes”.

Here in Canada no matter how simple your taxes, you have to fill out a tax return and file it with the CRA, although if all you’re doing is reporting employment income it’s not so bad. But on more than one occasion I’ve had the CRA come back and say “Hey, we noticed you missed this deduction” - which is nice of them, but if they’re able to notice that, then surely they could just send me a pre-prepared tax filing to review and sign as described here? It sounds like they’ve already done the work.

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Slip of the tongue as I was speaking of what is done in the US. Also, here it is withholding as they often over withhold, leading to about $1B in unclaimed refunds every year by people who don’t file their taxes (one more reason that the Federal Government has been a bit slow to do anything about this issue).

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