Return-free filing wouldn’t be mandatory. “If you don’t trust the government, you don’t have to do it,” ever-helpful economist and official Friend of Consumerist Austan Goolsbee told ProPublica. You could still file a return or hire a CPA if you really wanted to, but for most people who have regular salaried jobs, a few kids and a mortgage, and take the standard deduction, there wouldn’t be a point.
Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist and other proponents of smaller government have suggested that sending out bills instead of letting taxpayers calculate their own taxes would make it easier for the federal government to slip tax hikes past a lazy, unobservant public.
We sent Consumerist’s own Tax Dad this article, and he told us that in the grand scheme of things, his industry doesn’t need to exist. “It does not make sense that taxpayers should have to pay perhaps hundreds of dollars to give IRS their money,” he wrote. “The old tax joke is that IRS could just send a postcard with 3 simple questions: 1. How much did you make? 2. How much of that do you have left? 3. Send it to us!”
California experimented with return-free filing for state income taxes in 2005. The ReadyReturn program didn’t take off, but still exists. Fewer than 100,000 returns came in that way last year.