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Author Topic: TurboTax’s 20-Year Fight to Stop Americans From Filing Their Taxes for Free  (Read 2817 times)

mouser

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I happen to use TurboTax, but it's truly a sign of how messed up our world is to read about how they have spent millions lobbying politicians in order to insure that filing your taxes is a painful expensive process.

For more than 20 years, Intuit has waged a sophisticated, sometimes covert war to prevent the government from doing just that [making tax filling simple and free], according to internal company and IRS documents and interviews with insiders. The company unleashed a battalion of lobbyists and hired top officials from the agency that regulates it. From the beginning, Intuit recognized that its success depended on two parallel missions: stoking innovation in Silicon Valley while stifling it in Washington. Indeed, employees ruefully joke that the company’s motto should actually be “compromise without integrity.”



from osnews.com

rgdot

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Basement alert:
"Freedom" morphing into the right to do anything you want at the expense of others ... is humanity's downfall

wraith808

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I have a love/hate relationship with TurboTax.  I mean, they're more convenient than a CPA, and cheaper.  But they also are the heavy in the industry, and they know it.  I thought about switching, but then realized, there are no good guys here.

IainB

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@mouser: Not being au fait with US Inland Revenue processes, I had been unaware until reading your post just now that Intuit TurboTax was secure in what seems to have been an obfuscated monopoly/cartel of sorts. Funny how nobody had noticed over the last 20-odd years that Intuit seemed to have had some kind of monopoly, or something there, and thus nobody had done anything to remedy it, eh?
Under what circumstances do you suppose that could happen?   :tellme:


IainB

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Regardless, the idea of automating the tax-gathering process using ubiquitous, non-proprietary and lowest-common-denominator technology (i.e., the Internet, in this case) and thus making it less complicated/easier and the cost of compliance less expensive for taxpayers is not a novel idea and should be a key objective for the State treasury - for example, as it is in New Zealand:
As I wrote under: Re: Privacy - Why can't the government do my taxes for me?
In 2008/9 I was contracted as a project manager to establish and commence a project that was going to transform the gathering of revenue/tax data by doing it online. This was for individuals and accounting agents of SMBs (Small to Medium-sized Businesses). It was to automate and dramatically improve the efficiency and speed of the processes involved, which, up until then, had been prone to massive manual processing holdups.

Fast forward 9 years. I was doing my personal online tax return the other day and was impressed with how easy it was,, as the Inland Revenue already knew an awful lot of the private details about my income. What potentially had been likely to take me hours by the old methods was now taking minutes. This was for my individual tax return. (I had read in the press that the SMB side of things was still having hiccups though.)

Then my train of thought reminded me of this silly humour post I made in 2014:
Scott Adams Blog: Message to My Government 03/06/2014
Mar 6, 2014

I never felt too violated by the news that my government can snoop on every digital communication and financial transaction I make. Maybe I should have been more bothered, but the snooping wasn't affecting my daily life, and it seemed like it might be useful for fighting terrorism, so I worried about other things instead.

This week, as I was pulling together all of my records to do taxes, I didn't get too upset that the process of taxpaying is unnecessarily frustrating and burdensome. As a citizen, I do what I need to do. I'm a team player.

I have also come to peace with the fact that my government now takes about half of my income. I figure most of it goes to good causes. I'm here to help.

I take pride in the fact that I don't let the little things get to me.

But the other day, as I was crawling my way through mountains of statements and receipts, trying to organize my records for my accountant, with several more days of this drudgery ahead, I had a disturbing thought. I must warn you in advance that this disturbing thought can only be expressed in all capital letters and it must include profanity. It goes like this.

Message to my government:

DO MY FUCKING TAXES FOR ME, YOU ASSHOLES!!! YOU ALREADY KNOW EVERY FUCKING THING I DID THIS YEAR!!!

Seriously.
-IainB (2014-03-11, 05:57:32)

goozak

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Here’s an interesting look into trying to fight the tax lobby:

Two years ago, there was a story on NPR’s Planet Money about people trying to simplify tax return filling with something called ReadyReturn: Episode 760: Tax Hero. (That episode was reported with Priceonomics. You can read a version of that story on their website.)

Spoiler alert:
Intuit is not a fan.

4wd

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Here in Australia the ATO switched to online tax returns 3 years ago, (before then they had their own software you had to download and install): log in, fill it out, submit, done.

For an individual it takes about 60 minutes if you include a coffee break, most of it gets pre-filled with all the relevant info, (from investments, wages, interest, etc).

IainB

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@4wd: Yes, the Ozzies were arguably ahead of the game. In the NZ IRD project, the designers/planners had looked to other examples of innovation in the tax system in different countries, and one good example had been Australia's. (The decision had already been taken to use XML as the Common Reporting Standard.)
The background to the project would have included these objectives and benefits:
The Standard Business Reporting (SBR) Programme would eventually transform the manually intensive AS-IS government-mandated processes for collecting data from businesses, to enable a more automated TO-BE process.
In considering the SBR Programme, the New Zealand government would be in line with international developments – for example, where Australia, the Netherlands and the UK are well advanced in the development and implementation of SBR.
This would be a whole-of-government programme using technology to reduce reporting burdens for business by eliminating unnecessary or duplicated reporting to separate government agencies – typically IR, ACC, Statistics.
SBR would provide options for increased automation of business reporting, including greater pre-population of forms.
The broad areas of benefit that would be provided by SBR are:
•   Reducing the number of different agencies to which businesses have to report directly the same or similar information.
•   Reducing the number of data elements that businesses report to government, through standardising and harmonising data definitions and eliminating duplication.
•   Reducing the cost of intermediaries to business, currently necessitated by the need to operate a more manual and duplicative process.
•   Improving cost-efficiency of the SBR process, through increased automation.
...etc.
I could be wrong, of course, but in the Intuit case in the US, those types of "no-brainer" objectives/benefits for the nation's taxpayers would seem to have been nowhere in sight. If it was not benefitting the taxpayers, then one has to wonder to whose $benefit that ultimately might have been...  :tellme:

absoblogginlutely

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In case anyone is interested and is doing their taxes looking for an alternative, taxact was a lot cheaper than the big two when I was doing mine. I now give mine to a local cpa who does it for less than it would cost me to file myself and includes the filing costs!