Senate Committee OKs Bill Written By H&R Block To Make Doing Your Taxes More Complicated

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If there is one thing in the world more frustrating than sitting down to do your taxes, it’s knowing that there are people in this world who are actively working to make the job as difficult as can be so that you will find it all but impossible to do it on your own. You might recognize them as the people at H&R Block and TurboTax.

Tax preparation companies have been adamant about keeping the veil of maddening confusion surrounding the tax process. They bank on it. Literally. Each year fed up Americans spend billions of dollars on tax help from companies like H&R Block and Intuit(the company which owns TurboTax). And the confusion and complexity waste more than just dollars and cents. Each year, Americans spend about 6.1 billion hours working on filing their taxes.

The system has gotten so out of hand that it may be one of the few bipartisan issues left. Everybody hates the tax structure, even if conservatives and liberals fundamentally disagree on where that money eventually goes.

The only people gaining from this system are in the tax help industry (and “libertarian” tax-bashers who like to keep taxes as irritating as possible so they can channel that anger into support for their draconian fiscal policies, but I digress…), and sure enough each time a proposal comes along to make filing taxes easier – say, for example, the plan for automatic tax filing – tax-prep lobbyists start pouring millions into killing the bills. Just recently, the push to keep taxes hard took an even more sinister turn because the law being considered would make tax filing more complicated – and worse, disproportionately affects lower income taxpayers.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed a funding bill designed in part by a consortium of members of the tax preparation industry that would, as Vox noted, “at least quadruple the length of the form” meant for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). What is the EITC? Put simply, for many lower income Americans, the EITC is the life raft you cling onto while an ocean full of sharks circles just below the water’s edge. In more concrete terms:

The Census Bureau estimates that it and the related Child Tax Credit keep 9.4 million people out of poverty every year, and recent research suggests that when you take into account the people the EITC brings into the workforce, the real number is probably twice that. If that weren’t enough, it also boosts test scores for kids in families receiving it and improves both parents’ and children’s health.

Yeah, it’s a big deal. And H&R Block wants to ensure you’ll have no idea how to properly file it… without their help.

Like predatory lenders who front the desperate with payday loans at exorbitant interest rates, tax prep services are exploiting the poor by ensuring there is a cost to getting a full tax refund. The goal is to make taxes so hard, so complex, and so time consuming that people just throw up their hands, accept that they’ll lose some money and go to their tax agent in defeat. Undoubtedly, for many people this decision isn’t entirely a bad one. For those with a busy schedule and not hurting for cash, the price might not be too high and the time and headache one saves well worth it. But for people who are counting on getting all the money they can from their tax return, it’s not fair that the game is being continuously rigged against them.

For H&R’s part, the company has gone to great lengths to defend the bill as preventing “fraud” not helping out their bottom line. It’s unclear how the bill accomplishes this altruistic goal. It’s unclear how they even wrote that with a straight face. What is clear is people will be discovering that their tax headache has turned into a tax migraine this year and businesses like Intuit and H&R Block are selling the only medicine in town.

Not entirely unexpectedly, the bill received its most impassioned support from anti-tax zealots like Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Sen. John Boozman (R-AK). In an incredible display of doublespeak, Cochran even went so far as to praise the bill as a victory for “responsible choices to help ensure that federal actions are helpful and not burdensome.” Boozman joined in, by saying that the bill was crucial in “investing in the ideals of a free market.” The term “free market” here meaning corporate lobbyists dictating what America’s laws should be based on their own profit interests.

By all accounts, a simpler tax filing system would save millions of dollars a year for the government, millions of dollars a year for the American public and millions of hours a year in wasted time for both. Letting the people who profit on this self-inflicted misery have a say in whether or not a solution is found is lunacy. Just like we don’t put foxes in charge of running hen houses, H&R Block should be kept far away from anything that has to do with simplifying our taxes.

 

Reprinted with permission from Addicting Info

 

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