Filing taxes is not fun. Congress wants to keep it that way.
On Tuesday, ProPublica reported that the Taxpayer First Act passed last week by the House Ways and Means Committee includes a provision that makes it illegal for the IRS to create an online tax filing system. Why would Congress do this? If the IRS were to offer a simple, free online portal into which Americans could file their taxes, it would cripple the for-profit tax industry. H&R Block and Intuit, which makes TurboTax, are among the companies that have long been lobbying lawmakers to do what they can to prevent the IRS from creating an online filing system.
Heading up the Ways and Means Committee is Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who may have something to gain from keeping companies like Intuit and H&R Block happy. According to ProPublica, he’s received $16,000 in contributions from Intuit and H&R Block.
And who is helping this along? Democrat @RepRichardNeal, the one who has gotten donations from tax filing cos; delayed requesting Trump’s tax returns for months; and inexplicably didn’t ask for Trump Org’s returns. Working hard for The People! https://t.co/c1z8kuADhX
— Jesse Eisinger (@eisingerj) April 9, 2019
Last week, Neal formally requested President Trump’s tax returns from the IRS. Though the move puts pressure on the administration, Neal has been criticized for waiting so long to make the request.
According to Jeff Stein of the Washington Post, progressive lawmakers are now working to strike the provision from the legislation. “We’re going to call around and see what we can do to address this,” said one lawmaker.
Have heard this morning from multiple lawmakers and Congressional aides on the progressive left on the Hill who are scrambling right now to strike this measure from legislation
"We're going to call around and see what we can do to address this" https://t.co/gbjsVcnqSM
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) April 9, 2019
Unfortunately, removing the provision wouldn’t necessarily result in the creation of an online tax system. According to ProPublica, the IRS has essentially agreed not to create its own filing system as long as for-profit companies offer their services to Americans who fall below a certain income threshold for free. Though the private industry group Free File Alliance says that 70% of Americans qualify for free tax services, only a fraction of those eligible actually take advantage of free filing.
Rep. Neal did no immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone.