Why Can't The IRS Just Calculate & File Your Taxes For You?

How come we all have to go through the terrible, awful, no good, very bad experience of mucking our way through filing personal income taxes every year, when the IRS already has all the numbers they need to calculate stuff for themselves? Well, because then tax preparation businesses would have nothing to do, and no money to make, of course.

Slate.com‘s Matthew Yglesias takes a look at the necessary but annoying process of having to pay taxes. Which, duh, we have to do if we want to not go to jail. Filling out forms and making calculations is totally unnecessary, he says, and we have to do it because of lobbying by the tax preparation industry.

He says a January 2010 initiative by the IRS that was supposed to regulate the tax preparation for the first time requires companies to pay special fees and get special licenses in order to do your taxes. This made H&R Block, Jackson-Hewitt and Liberty Tax all super happy, because it meant edging out smaller potential competitors. CPAs are exempt from the rule, as well.

You don’t lie on your taxes, especially when you do them yourself, because the IRS already has forms from your employer, your bank and anyone else about your income. Why can’t they just take all that info and either send you a form to sign, and a bill or a check?

Perhaps those with lots of expenses to include or deductions to write off might need to submit their own forms, but many of us could be spared the headache with just a few tippety taps of the keyboard over at the IRS, posits Yglesias.

This doesn’t happen because of tax preparation lobbyists discouraging feds and states from rolling out easier tax-paying systems, and lobbying by anti-tax conservatives, says Yglesias. If taxes are easier to pay, then we might be okay with paying more of them, goes the thinking.

Oh yeah, today’s the deadline to file your income taxes, in case that rock you’ve been living under is still firmly in place.

Who Wants Taxes To Be More Complicated? [Slate.com]