When Trump's #TaxScam meant that affluent people no longer had to use the paid version of Turbotax, Turbotax started charging poor people, disabled people, students and elderly people

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/16/unemployed-subsidizing-wealthy.html


H&R Block and Intuit were big winners in that compromise. But Intuit is truly an evil genius in it’s willingness to hide the free filing option. That episode of Reply All went into the details.

My “favorite” part of that show was where the Intuit support person (on tape) tells the refund-requesting-customer the ProPublica is lying and dishonest and that they should believe Intuit instead.


I was just reading up on some of Intuit’s old shenanigans recently.

(Incidentally, if you would happen to have a lead on defeating Intuit’s DRM circa 2003, advice would be appreciated. Seems they must have annoyed some people badly enough to devise a crack, but such tools also seem to be lost to the mists of time.)


You have to pay to file your taxes if you’re unemployed? :neutral_face:

The first time I ever dealt with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was when I went self employed. Until then there was just a section on my payslip that said how much my employer had sent to HMRC for me that month

Coincidentally I did my taxes today. It took about an hour or so on the HMRC website


I saw that very screen and had to pay up also. Never heard of the Free File option with the IRS.

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I knew that Intuit and HRB had been lobbying for years to prevent return-free filing, but I hadn’t heard of this yet. Bastards.

But you know, if you want a smaller government, one way to do it is to suppress tax collection.


the problem is, if you don’t earn a lot, you generally are owed taxes that you’ve already paid. ( a lot of people prefer to have a standard paycheck deduction and then get a refund, rather than have no paycheck deduction and owe. and some people probably don’t know that a no deduction option is possible. )

the government doesn’t just send you the money tho. you have to file your taxes to get that money back. even though legally, if you don’t owe, you aren’t required to file.

then enters the private companies to essentially tax you for acting as the middle man.

it’s the modern economy writ large. don’t worry about actually producing anything, just be the gatekeeper between parties. and keep rules and regulations byzantine enough that only large companies can succeed. locking it all in with too big to fail.

i blame computers. none of this wealth extraction on the margins leveraged to make millions would work without computers.


Another example of the nickel-and-diming scams that prey on poor people in late-stage capitalist America.


So 75k per year is “wealthy” now?

“In 2014, the national middle-income range was about $42,000 to $125,000 annually for a household of three.”

And if anyone thinks for a god damn minute the truly wealthy are self preparing their taxes with Turbo Tax or visiting H&R Block they’re high.

The exact changes called out here (along with the removal of SALT and deductions for unreimbursed business expenses which fucked me over pretty hard) were notably not friendly to anyone in the 99%, even if larger impacts were on the higher brackets.

Meanwhile that lawsuit spooling over Trump’s Tax returns isn’t about getting a stack of 1040ez forms out of Intuit. The situation with tax prep, including exactly which and how many prep companies get invited to the party is about reaming the middle class from both ends. Not public school teachers making out like bandits by saving 50 bucks while slightly different public school teachers get robbed for 50.

I gave up on HRB after using them to prepare my taxes and disagreeing with the HRB employee over whether I could claim a deduction. I was sure I could, she was sure I couldn’t. It wasn’t for much money and she had that fancy HRB tax prep certificate hanging in her cube so I eventually relented and my return was filed without claiming that deduction.

Some time later I got a refund from the Canada Revenue Agency, together with a letter stating “hey, we saw you didn’t claim that deduction that you obviously qualified for so we adjusted it for you”.

I guess getting that certificate isn’t that hard.


I keep reading about people getting ripped off by Turbo Tax, and wonder why they don’t just use Freetax USA, the perfectly good free tax filing site with the stupid name that I’ve used for the past several years. It charges for more complex filing, but I’m able to do my somewhat complicated self-employment and home business taxes on there without paying anything.


It really isn’t. It’s a time-sink of a series of training classes and then a test. Anyone who’s finished high-school can manage it.

Yeah, I had a similar experience. I used to do comment moderation for Gawker back in the day for beer money. It was completely online and done from my state of residence. But the HRB rep doing my taxes said I had to file for that income with New York state because that’s where Gawker was, despite me being an independent contractor. He wanted to charge me extra to file in another state. I declined, called the revenue agencies in New York, and my state of residence and they both said the guy was wrong. Never again.


It’s not just computers. You can fill out your tax return for free on the government website in the UK, and I’m sure in other countries. It’s just that tax return software companies lobbied the US government to make sure this didn’t happen there.

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because the us relies heavily on deductions and credits ( rather than, say, a progressive tax rate, or separate taxes on wealth or stock transactions ) - it means there’s more information that you have that would modify your tax return than possibly other countries.

the us government could have provided software for this - but i think there is something to allowing companies to at least compete at this. it’s not necessarily something a government agency is going to be the best at building.

completely disallowing the irs to build the software is evil for sure. and seems like it could only have come from lobbying.

i definitely would be for simplifying the tax code ( so long as it’s a progressive taxation, and some silly flat tax. ) that would be good for a lot of reasons, and make filing taxes on paper easier. which would mean the software would also be simpler.

my point about computers is just that computers give the incentive for companies to work this way. computers make it easy to leverage small margins at scale to make big money.

In most countries, you don’t have to pay an accountant to prepare your tax return: the government already knows how much you made, so every year they just send you a pre-filled in form to check over and sign.

Sign something every year? That sounds pretty unwieldy!
The closest I get is HMRC sending me a letter each year telling me how much tax my employer paid for me. No need to sign anything unless you’re self employed.
It’s almost like the people in charge of the US tax system want it to fail for anyone who can’t afford an accountant.


Not necessarily. If you’re willing/able to do it yourself, you can get the forms for free—the IRS will mail you paper forms and instructions if you request them, or you can print them out yourself from the IRS website. So, your cost could be as little as the price of the envelope and stamp you use to mail your return to them…

…PLUS whatever value you place on your own time and sanity. Hence the immense popularity of TurboTax etc., despite their drawbacks.

(I wonder what percentage of U.S. taxpayers still file paper forms? And I wonder if many younger people today are even aware that it can be done by one’s self?)

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