Elizabeth Warren has a great idea for making Tax Day less painful – Vox

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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86 Responses

  1. Jesse Ewiak says:

    John Edwards had an idea like this during his ’08 campaign, then ya’ know, cheating and all.Report

  2. j r says:

    Warren’s bill would kill the corrupt, feckless Free File program for good. But it goes further than that. Best of all, it establishes a new “return-free” filing option that would send millions of Americans with simple tax situations a pre-prepared tax return, which they can submit unchanged if they like.

    I’m all for taking on the tax prep lobby and simplifying the tax code, both personal and corporate. But why is it that journalists treat a program written up in a legislative proposal as a fiat accompli? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.) If the government’s system ends up being bloated, non-intuitive and taking hours of extra work, then I’d rather give TurboTax the $50. Even if their lobbying efforts do end up screwing me in the long run.

    Also, anyone notice that Matthews plan to starve the tax prep services of revenue sounds an awful lot like Norquist’s tax strategy? There is a lesson there, even if I’m not quite sure what it is.Report

    • Kim in reply to j r says:

      the government already knows how much you ought to pay. at least for “from your employer” crap. They just send that back to you, with a “here, pay this”

      All paperwork/bloating ought to occur on the non-consumer side.Report

  3. Damon says:

    ” strongly push back against the tax prep industry’s attempts to keep taxes difficult.”

    The tax prep industry is not the industry responsibility for keeping taxes difficult. It’s Congress and IRS. They are the one that draft and administer the laws.Report

    • Joe Sal in reply to Damon says:

      Yeah if I had my way, interactions with the IRS wouldn’t be a problem at all.Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      tax prep folks bribing congress.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Damon says:

      That’s completely untrue. This idea isn’t new, and is implemented well in other countries. Tax prep firms’ lobbying (along with GOP opposition on the basis that taxes should be as painful as possible in all regards) is a big part of the reason why.

      For anyone with reported income taking a standard deduction, there shouldn’t be any need to file anything, and even if there is people would benefit from a pre-filled as a starting place.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to nevermoor says:

        In the end, unless you’re really well-connected and have the time and energy to fight a long knock-down drag-out battle, you’re going to pay what the IRS says you’re going to pay, even if you’re right and they’re wrong.

        That said, every year I seem to miscalculate something and get back a refund with a different amount than on my 1040. Never had any problems or other communications, just an adjustment. As often in my favor as in theirs, so that’s not an answer.

        With all that, I’d be perfectly happy just to get a pre-filled form along with a check (if employed) or bill (if not).Report

        • Kim in reply to El Muneco says:

          Holy cow… you get audited every single year?Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Kim says:

            We all get audited in the sense that the IRS has sufficient computing power to run every tax return through its interpretation of the rules. My understanding of current policy is that if you’ve calculated a modestly too-large tax (in the computers’ opinion), they just automatically refund the difference. My wife and I got a couple of those, back in the days when our income was more complicated and we did the taxes by hand.

            My wife and I would have run into that again a couple of years back when a combination of obscure rules let us qualify for an earned income tax credit. Give our total income, we would never have bothered with going that deep into the rules on our own, and would have paid too much tax. The software we were using caught it (a combination of thresholds that we met by about $30). The IRS didn’t complain, although I half-expected them to.Report

            • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Oh, I think I understand what’s going on…
              The IRS knows about some stuff, and some stuff you need to be able to document yourself.

              The “you need to document yourself” stuff is what triggers a “by a real person” audit, if you are too unusual.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kim says:

                Or too wealthy. The LLC through which my wife and I have run occasional small consulting gigs falls below the IRS thresholds for income, distributions, and assets, so we get pretty-much a free pass on most of the schedules. This year the income and and distribution were zero, so I even got to check off the box that said the LLC hadn’t, and wouldn’t be, sending out K-1 forms to the members. Cross any of those thresholds, though, and the amount of paperwork goes up by a lot.Report

              • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Oh, you have a NORMAL Schedule K, rather than a Wall Street Schedule K… (aka an ETF).Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Kim says:

                Exactly. If all you have to deal with are income from sources that are already mandatory reporters, don’t have any e.g. deductions that require separate documentation, etc., then the IRS already has enough information to calculate what you should be owing. And since they already know how to do all the calculations, and theoretically don’t miss anything or put something in the wrong column, if their number differs from mine, I defer to them.

                Basically, if the only thing you attach to your 1040 is a W-2, you shouldn’t need to send either at 1040 or W-2.Report

        • nevermoor in reply to El Muneco says:

          Not really.

          For example, I do an itemized deduction every year that includes deductions for things the IRS wouldn’t know about (charitable giving being the obvious example). So my form would have the family income, mortgage interest, state taxes, etc. but would reach an obviously incorrect result. It wouldn’t be any “knock-down drag-out battle” to file a different form, I’d just do what I usually do to prepare and file an accurate return.

          The action is for people unlike me who can eyeball the thing, say “that looks right” and accept it.Report

  4. notme says:

    My proposal may making taxes less painful is to place election day on April 16th so I we can take our frustration out on the pols that keep wasting out money, especially those that tell us that it for the kids, the greater good, paying for civilization or that it’s patriotic.Report

  5. pillsy says:

    “Let’s just start a big IT project that makes this easy,” has replaced, “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter,” as the motto over the gates of Hell.

    Why not just simplify the eligibility requirements and advertise the existing program better?Report

  6. Richard Hershberger says:

    I have been filing online for years. I’m not, I am please to report, eligible for the free fancy software. The free version available to me is a matter of filling in fields, with it doing the arithmetic. The first year I (not coincidentally) had a kid and a house I found the results startling, and I paid H&R Block to tell me that I had done it right. Since then the exact numbers change from year to year, but the lines I have to worry about do not. All I have to do is make sure the same boxes are filled in as the previous year, and it really isn’t all that hard.

    My main critique is that the procedure for getting the IRS to accept the efiled return is clunky. Everything has to be just so, and it is easy to get it kicked back. (In fairness, this happens quickly, and you can try again.) This year I got it through on the first try. I think this is the first year that happened.Report

  7. aaron david says:

    You want to simplify the tax code?

    Flat tax, no deductions.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to aaron david says:

      The two biggest deductions go to voters.

      1. Charitable Donations
      2. Mortgage Interest

      Now, interestingly, mortgage rates have been so very freakin’ low for the last decade that the 2nd one might be vulnerable. I mean, if you could claim the standard and still get within a hundred bucks of the same return, this is something that could squeeze past the voters.

      So then you’re stuck primarily with the first.

      How many small churches are you willing to wreck?Report

    • Damon in reply to aaron david says:

      “You want to simplify the tax code?

      Flat tax, no deductions”

      More simple: THERE IS NO TAXReport

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Damon says:

        Flat tax (as opposed to graduated rates) doesn’t simplify a damned thing. If you enter a single number (your income) and get back a result [1], it doesn’t matter how that result is calculated.

        1. Or look up a single number in a table, which is how we did this before we used computers.Report

        • It’s not the tax rate that gives me problems, it’s the whole “what kind of income is this?” thing. I’ve tried hard to set up my retirement finances to be simple, and yet I’ve got earned income and multiple kinds of unearned income (earned income even if I don’t work, because one of my retiree benefits gets categorized that way). Given the amounts, table lookup is trivial. Putting the money in the proper classifications is the pain.

          My question whenever someone suggests “flat tax” is “Applied to all income, no matter its source?”Report

        • Flat tax would simplify things a bit (Taking me from “Can calculated taxes in my head” to “Need tools”), but five tiers is definitely not the complicated part of our tax system.Report

          • All flat taxes I’ve seen proposed have a standard deduction, so the calculation is

            (Income – Standard_deduction) * Marginal_rate

            For a tiered tax, you need to look up what range you’re in, and then the calculation is:

            (Income – Range_minimum) * Range_marginal_rate + Range_base_tax

            So, even if you’re figuring by hand, the added complication is looking up three numbers instead of two, and doing one extra addition.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    That the tax code would be captured by tax accounting software is one of those unintended consequences that you’d never, ever guess beforehand but, after the fact, seems so freaking obvious.

    Of *COURSE* it would be.Report

    • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

      Has it been? I’m with @damon on this: I find it very hard to believe that the tax code is complicated all because Intuit keeps the screws tight on Congress. I’m not surprised that access to the Free File program is complicated and if the government contract was written in a way that does not incentivize Intuit to recruit users then what did they expect…Report

      • Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

        From the article:

        Moreover, it bans the agency from working with the tax prep companies, as it’s been doing for years.

        From that, it’s possible to leap to “they’re probably not talking about making things easier for people” but, yes, it’s not proof.

        But here’s a fun article that got carried on NPR a few years back. “How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing”.Report

        • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

          Wow, that article has something for everyone:

          Intuit argues that allowing the IRS to act as a tax preparer could result in taxpayers paying more money. It is also a member of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which sponsors a “STOP IRS TAKEOVER” campaign and a website calling return-free filing a “massive expansion of the U.S. government through a big government program.”

          Funny how these issues can be spun. I would have thought the government providing you their estimated filing is giving you more freedom, not less.Report

          • nevermoor in reply to trizzlor says:

            Yep. It’s a self-interested alliance between a huge industry that makes significant money from doing unnecessary work for nervous citizens, and a zealot who hates taxes and wants them to be as low / painful as possible.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

              Of course, if the IRS had not so eagerly earned such a fearful reputation amongst the median tax payer, people would not be so nervous and willing to fork over hundreds of dollars for peace of mind.Report

              • Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                You should see the kind of tax return you have to file if you paid your employees in chickens. Or by a tidal schedule (IRS hates algorithms, likes tables).Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The IRS, by and large, would prefer to audit the rich and corporations — it’s where the money and the lawbreaking generally is.

                Middle class and under? There’s generally two flavors — honest mistakes (which get caught by automatic auditing software, by and large) and “I didn’t bother filing”. Well you didn’t, but the people who paid you did. Which ALSO gets caught pretty automatically.

                The fun sorts of tax evasion require money — to pay accounts and to have enough cash to make hiding it actually worth the cost.

                I don’t really get why the IRS is such a boogeyman to everyone. I use tax software to fill out my taxes every year. I paid to have it done a few years (by a real accountant, as I had a complex few years for me) and literally there wasn’t anything there that tax software hasn’t been able to handle for the last 15 years.

                I mean sure, it won’t allow me to do dodgy crap. But dodgy crap is what gets you audited. And the savings from dodgy crap are so low that it’s not even remotely worth it — not unless I made like 10 times what I do. And then I’d use an accountant who specialized in staying on the legal side when doing dodgy stuff.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Morat20 says:

                That’s pretty much my point. If the IRS only gave large corporations and very wealthy people the sweats, regular people wouldn’t be so worried. But they go after poor & middle class people just as hard, and don’t seem to care if it was actual criminal mischief or an honest mistake (by seemingly acting as if it’s all criminal mischief that they just can’t prove, but they are gonna hammer you with everything just shy of an indictment).

                This shows most clearly in how they handle refunds/underpayment. You never get a refund plus some interest. And if you underpay, you always get dinged for interest & penalties. Seems there should be some kind of threshold, where if the underpayment is less than $X or Y% of what was owed, you have 60 days to get them a check (or make arrangements) before penalties accrue.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                No. Propaganda.

                The IRS in 2014 audited essentially no returns from people with AGI of over $0 and under $200k. See the table on page 27 of this. The only categories of returns with > 5% audit rates are $0 and >$1,000,000.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to nevermoor says:

                propoganda, but of type the IRS encourages. Like piracy, if word leaks out that the IRS has gone soft, people will begin to disobey, and then it’s nothing but work, work, work, all the time.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Kolohe says:

                O RLY?

                If that’s true, why publish facts showing that no one gets audited except those with high incomes or those claiming incomes of $0 or below?

                I assume you have a citation for this encouragement.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to nevermoor says:

                everything third world country in the world (and Greece) where tax evasion, rather than tax paying, is the default status and the government is inept and corrupt because of it.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Kolohe says:

                Not following at all.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to nevermoor says:

                The IRS (and the federal government) could not function if people believed the consequences for not paying taxes weren’t severe *and* that there would be a very good chance that you would be caught for not paying your taxes.

                (the other aspect is that mandatory withholding is automatic compliance for most, and puts the incentive to file a return to get money back)Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Kolohe says:

                Seems inconsistent with wanting to be pilloried by the GOP, but I now understand your point.

                I’ll buy the IRS wants people to believe it will catch errors and fraud. I don’t buy that it approves of propaganda about how it’s some evil agency out to get ordinary Americans. Which is the propaganda I was referring to causing people to believe, per Oscar, that “they go after poor & middle class people just as hard, and don’t seem to care if it was actual criminal mischief or an honest mistake”Report

              • Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

                Here: have 10 GB worth of financial information.
                Have Fun!
                (months later the IRS sends back a “you overpaid” bill).Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I mean, no one LIKES the IRS, because they take our money. But anything beyond that for most people is gullible adoption of right-wing propaganda.

                They simply don’t come after most people (except, as @morat20 correctly notes, where the errors are caught via simple automated checks).

                I’ll also note that (for obvious political reasons) the IRS is a shadow of its former self. This despite the fact, as the article says, that “every additional $1 invested in IRS tax enforcement beyond current levels would yield $4 in increased revenue.”Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

                And how long do you think it takes an enforcement body to undo decades of earned reputation as a fearsome agency who goes after everybody? Even if Grover Norquist wasn’t still banging that drum, it’d be a long time before people believed in a kindler, gentler IRS.

                Honestly, Warrens idea would go a long way toward helping that along, since a lot of people would feel like they are collaborating with the agency, rather than the agency being a big bad just waiting to pounce on a mistake.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                There is literally nothing the IRS can do to change its reputation if one political party is committed to scaring its partisans about the agency. It has to collect taxes, and it’s always going to audit SOMEONE that can appear sympathetic on Fox News.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

                Sure it can. It can send me a form with all the information it has pre-filled out, with all the deductions/credits/etc. it suspects I can take according to how it interprets those rules already set.

                Then I can approve or amend the form.

                The can also figure out some way of being more approachable with questions, if Congress won’t simplify the tax code. For instance, there is a local IRS office near me, but in order to be able to talk to someone there, you have to make an appointment, and they only take appointments from 9-5 (with an hour off for lunch from 12-1), so the only people who can use that office are people with really flexible work schedules, or who can afford to take time off of work.

                Also, according to that table, they examined 13.8% of the returns between $0 & $1,000,000, which is where the vast bulk of the US exists, so 13.8% of 250+M people is a hella lot of returns.

                That ain’t zero, or anywhere close to it.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Not sure where you’re getting 13.8%. They did 5.26% of <=$0 returns (which, you can understand, can be suspect).

                They did <1% of returns above $0 and <$200k.

                They did <2% of remaining returns <$500k

                They did < 4% of remaining returns <$1M

                Only then does it go back up over 5%. Also, note this is AGI, not gross income, so already includes some adjustments downward.

                As to the rest of your post, I completely agree the IRS should do that. Lots of people want them to. It's a political non-starter, though, because of GOP obstruction and high-dollar lobbying by tax prep companies. Hopefully there's space to get it done at some point.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

                Yep, you are right, I grabbed that 5.26% by mistake, my bad, it’s 8.54% total.

                Considering I disagree with Warren on, well, damn near everything, and this idea actually has staunch libertarians hereabouts agreeing with her, I have hope.

                I think the strongest part of this plan is, A) the IRS would be able to deliver strong evidence if parts of the tax code are too complex for even them to interpret, and B) we could do away with the annual game of having 10 different tax preparers fill out a 1040 10 different ways and come up with 10 different amounts. That isn’t a game people filing a 1040 should have to play.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I too have hope (particularly because it’s so obviously a good government function – no discretion, easily automated, etc.)

                How do we get GOP buy-in, though?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

                Well, we can’t shoot them all, so buggered if I know. Ask some of the folks around here who are registered with the GOP.Report

              • Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Warren’s a damn fine technocrat. You may not always agree with her on the headlines, but when her head’s down, she’s doing her job right.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Kim says:

                Yep. Too bad she had too much sense to run for president.Report

              • Kim in reply to nevermoor says:

                Warren’s well positioned. The more friends we have in high places, the better off the future looks.

                Hillary’s not a friend, just a mercenary. (But bernie’s trolling her just fine.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

                Ya know, I don’t know if having a technocrat as president is a good idea, even if I did agree with them.Report

              • This is why we need to pay attention to the EU. It’s basically a technocracy in action.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Actually, the report claims a total of 1.2M audits were done in 2014, so it can’t be 13.8% of 250+M.

                But still, the bulk of tax payers fall in that range, so even if the percentages are small, the number of audits done on the poor & middle class are still considerable. I’d be better able to get a feel for the actual number if they had a table with the number of filers broken down by the same AGI brackets, but I’m not seeing that.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Well, the table I’m referencing (9B on page 27) has percentages per bracket both as a percent of all returns and with a percentage in that bracket audited. It says ~240M returns on page 2.

                So as I see it, the most common tax bracket ($1-$25k) has 39.08 % of all returns and was audited at a rate of 0.93%. Meaning 93,792,000 returns and 872,265 audits.

                Edit: per table 4, I used the wrong figure. It should be 124,585,594 individual returns. Making the numbers 48,688,050 and 452,798Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

                Ergo, decidedly not zero.

                Here is the thing, audits don’t actually matter. It’s the FEAR of an audit that matters. It’s the fear that the IRS is going to audit me, decide I did something wrong, and tell me I owe some amount I can’t afford, plus penalties and interest, and I can cut them a check now, thank you very much.

                And it isn’t just Fox News that reports on such cases, the local news, and MSNBC are happy to tell such stories too, if they think it will get eyeballs (& it will, because FEAR!!)

                If I start the tax process with an idea as to what the IRS expects my return to look like, the audit process isn’t as scary. It would also help if the IRS had a more forgiving payment process for audit results (or if they have one, better advertising of it).Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Oh I agree that audits are a threat. But 400k out of 48M is as close to zero as you can really expect, particularly as compared with 16% at the top bracket.

                And, more fundamentally, the IRS has to have the option to do that kind of enforcement, so that background threat is unavoidable.

                As for the payment plan point, googling “IRS payment plan” returns, as the top non-ad hit, this page. Which sure sounds forgiving to me (for debts under $50K, which should cover any good-faith error). Not sure what better advertising you’d want.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to nevermoor says:

                That is actually pretty forgiving, so I have to go with “they’ve done a crap job of making folks aware of it”.Report

              • Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah. the IRS pretty much says “If you weren’t being completely criminal about it”… we’ll have you pay just enough interest to stop it from being good game theory to just “forget” to pay your taxes.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Also, there’s all the “tax lawyers” who do know about this, and will skim off a finder’s fee for basically pointing you in the right direction.Report

      • James K in reply to trizzlor says:


        The reason tax codes become complicated is that governments try to use them as a tool for social policy rather than simply using them to collect revenue. The more a government refrains from using income tax as a policy tool, the simpler the tax code will be.Report

        • trizzlor in reply to James K says:

          I think this is true as general wisdom but maybe not so meaningful in practice. The government could implement a highly complex but socially-neutral structure: say a Value-added Tax where every transaction must be accurately tracked. Or they could implement an extremely simple progressive tax: 1% of (your income to the 1.25 power).Report

          • James K in reply to trizzlor says:


            Consumption taxes don’t need to be any more complicated than income taxes. And yes, progressivity is one simple thing a government can do. But every special exemption or deduction or other thing some politician thinks is a good idea to help out some constituency or other helps turn the US tax code into the nightmare that it currently is.Report

        • Kim in reply to James K says:

          Yes but… they could still be less hassle for taxpayers.
          Make the charities file the documentation for donations.
          etc. etc.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to James K says:

          Complexity is a bit of a pointless complaint in an age where you can do your taxes through a web interface.

          And honestly, most of the complexity is on the business side — not the personal side — and if your business is big enough to be getting into the weeds there, you’re should be paying an accountant anyways.

          Then again, ‘complex’ is kind of subjective. Tax tables look complex. I’d think using a simple function would be super simple. But some people would see that and think “Oh god, you have to do algebra to do your taxes! How complex!”.

          I’m fairly representative of a middle-class tax payer. Two incomes, some independent consulting work, and some related expenses (some of which are deductible and some aren’t). A kid, medical bills, a mortgage, student loan interest, and a few investments outside my 401k. 20 bucks, two hours max, to do online.

          And the most complex thing I had to work out took 15 minutes using an IRS FAQ on business expenses and the deductions thereof, and it only took that long because I verified it a few other places because I hadn’t done it before.Report

          • James K in reply to Morat20 says:


            Even 2 hours per household per year is a large cost in aggregate. Most New Zealanders don’t need to file tax returns at all.

            Also, don’t forget that the more complex the tax system is, the easier it is to avoid taxes if you can afford a good tax consultant.Report

            • Morat20 in reply to James K says:

              Doing laundry is a larger cost in aggregate. 2 hours a year in order for me to fully satisfy my tax requirements is exactly 1/11th the amount of time I spent watching the latest season of “Person of Interest”.

              In short, it’s a horrible measurement.

              The “complexity” in the tax code is bundled up rather heavily on the business and investment ends. On the personal end, for those not in the upper 1% or so, there are a handful of deductions (which most people never actually use, as the standard deduction is larger), a few things like the EITC…

              But by and large, the average American doesn’t actually SEE the complexity in the tax code, because it doesn’t apply to them.

              I’m all for it being swifter — there isn’t any reason, for instance, that the IRS couldn’t let you do this directly with their systems — or frankly just show a ‘default’ pre-filled out form. My son, for instance, wouldn’t have had to make a change.

              However, I’d have had to — we had some 1099 income that had deductions. Possibly the ability to deduct travel costs and hotel room for contract work is one of those ‘complexities’ you talk about — but I suspect you’d find that America is divided into two camps on that. People who use that deduction (and fully support it) and…people to whom that deduction doesn’t apply.

              But like I said, even WITH a more complex tax return than most Americans (two salaries, a kid filing his own tax return, independent contracting work, deductions related to that, a huge amount of health care expenses, student loans, mortgage, property taxes AND sales tax deductions, and taxable investments — including some sales — it took me about the length of a movie to complete.

              Two hours, to personally handle a standard middle-class, married tax return, and about 20 bucks for software, e-filing, generating a FAFSA, and holding my data for next year so I don’t have to fill out employer IDs…

              You can complain about “complexity” all you want, but that’s not that complex for like 95% of America. I’ve spent longer than that assembling a piece of furniture.

              Pre-filled out forms? Great. Go for it. But the ‘complexity’ of the American tax code is rather greatly over-stated, IMHO. I base this entirely on the existence of a political party that wants to simplify it yet has never managed to elucidate what deductions it wants to remove, and in fact generally changes the subject to laughable replacements — either in terms of who it actually helps and hurts versus the supposed selling points, or being woefully inadequate compared to the budget.

              Unserious or cons, basically.Report

  9. Kolohe says:

    Will the return-free filing option assume that people have followed the Obamacare mandate, or will it assume that people don’t?

    Former (mandate compliance assumed) – get a return – ‘eh, looks fine’ – doesn’t meet the mandate – IRS comes back at them for that fee and with penalties and interest

    Latter (mandate compliance not assumed) – get a return – ‘eh, looks fine’ – does meet the mandate – filer winds up overpaying by around around1400 dollars per couple .Report

    • trizzlor in reply to Kolohe says:

      Presumably if you want to be mandate compliant you would have to provide proof of insurance the same way you have to now. I think the return-free terminology is a bit misleading, I imagine it to be the way web-sites automatically fill in your email at log-in: the IRS would send you a pre-filled return, you would go through and confirm what they calculated and attach proof where necessary. I don’t really see any way in which this could be more cumbersome than the current system.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to trizzlor says:

        The way people are just as careful hitting ‘yes’ to an EULA as they are filling in their name and address on a blank web form?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to trizzlor says:

        I wonder what the administrative costs would be of having the employer simply send the applicable form to the IRS in addition to us. Actually, I thought they did that, so the administrative costs of filing it then. It seems to me having employers and the government coordinate might pay for itself in increased compliance. Or maybe not.Report

        • trizzlor in reply to Will Truman says:

          Yeah, I also thought they did that. My assumption was that the pre-filled return would just shift the point where the IRS runs the numbers to *before* you file instead of *after*, but essentially use all the same resources. It is possible that this would encourage some amount of fraud.Report

    • Autolukos in reply to Kolohe says:

      There’s an IRS form for that, so it should be no more difficult than the rest of the system.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Kolohe says:

      There’s already a tax form for this. The point is those forms already go the IRS, so it could just do the (very simple) analysis and apply the appropriate penalty (or not).

      Obviously this wouldn’t handle complex tax situations (which are rare) and would miss things for people who itemize deductions (for example, most charities don’t report donations to the IRS).Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    On reading Clinton’s interview with the Daily News, her main plan for revitalizing upstate New York has been and continues to be targeted tax cuts – the exact thing that adds complexity to filing returns.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Kolohe says:

      Sure, but part of that is that the GOP has a different reaction to “we should spend X government dollars on problem Y” and “we should cut taxes by X dollars for people with problem Y”

      I’m all for cutting that stuff out, but you have to then allow for government spending that isn’t disguised as a tax cut.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to nevermoor says:

        When dealing with poverty-related problems, you run into the difficulty that people with problem Y don’t pay X dollars in income taxes. And in many people’s minds, if they bother to think about it at all, a refundable tax credit like the EITC isn’t “cut people’s taxes” but rather is “pay people money”.

        Not that poor working people aren’t paying taxes. Almost 15% on dollar one in payroll taxes (ask anyone who is self-employed what the total payroll tax rate is). Local property taxes are rolled into their rent. Whatever the state/local sales tax is on most of the rest (low savings rate).Report

        • nevermoor in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Don’t disagree with any of it. Which is why it’s true that (absent GOP inanity) the correct way to support subsets of the population is with direct spending, not targeted tax cuts.

          I’m just trying to explain why Clinton isn’t proposing that method.Report

  11. notme says:

    Women-Only Car Services Fill a Niche, but Are They Legal?

    No, and I hope someone sues them. I’m sure I’ll hear why suing them is an improper use of discrimination laws.