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Besides corruption, what’s the number one thing Americans of all political stripes agree on? Doing your taxes sucks.
Yep, we’ve done the studies, we’ve compiled the data. Scientifically speaking, taxes suck. Don’t fact check us. Gut check us. You know we’re right.
Why do taxes have to suck so much?
Back in the ‘90’s, the internet became the cool new way to file taxes, and everybody — you, me, and the IRS — breathed a sigh of relief. We can save time, money, and trees by filing our taxes online, instead of on paper.
And then we thought: While we’re at it, why not modernize how we do our taxes? What if we just file directly on the IRS website? Hell, what if the IRS just… told us how much we owed them? Other countries do it, Ronald Reagan was down for it, it would save taxpayers time and money — what’s not to love?
For tax filing services, a lot. When we make paying taxes easier on taxpayers, we cut out the middle man: the H&R Blocks and TurboTaxes that charge Americans to help them navigate the gazillion forms, boxes, questions, and deductibles.
Like any good idea, the easy and cheap methods we could institute to file taxes were quickly shot down in Congress, in favor of helping out the lawmakers' BFFs: corporate lobbyists.
Congress to the rescue... of the Tax Filing Services Industry
As a member of the industry-backed Free File Alliance noted to shareholders, if the IRS were to develop “software or other systems to facilitate tax return preparation, [it] may present a continued competitive threat to our business for the foreseeable future.”
So of course, your lawmakers made sure the IRS wouldn’t ever cut into industry profits by creating its own filing software. And all it took was a cool $6 million in lobbying from Intuit and H&R Block.
The Free File Alliance might defend itself by saying that most Americans qualify for free filing, so there's no problem, right? Wrong. The problem is that their deceitful marketing of things like “TurboTax Free” (not free) and careful burying of “TurboTax Freedom” (actually free) mean that though 70% of Americans should qualify for this free filing system, only 3% actually use it.
Every couple years, Congress has the opportunity to renegotiate this bill. And every couple of years, they give into lobbyists and let down the American people. This, ladies and gentlemen, is all part of the great “Stupidity Paradox.”
Every issue you care about is trapped by the corrupt Stupidity Paradox™
What do you get when you cross the opportunity for a reform that would meaningfully better the lives of Americans, and our nation’s Congress? Lobbyists!
The Stupidity Paradox is what happens when these lobbyists descend on Washington D.C. and cajole lawmakers into doing their bidding: Our laws become... stupid.
Taxes are an annual annoyance, but this cycle of lobbyist influence and pandering is much, much bigger than that. Every issue you care about, from climate change to the economy to healthcare, is trapped in this corrupt cycle — and it’s completely legal.
Until we break this cycle, tax companies will swindle people, healthcare will remain expensive and inaccessible, and insert-your-passion-issue-here will be stalled by lobbyists, special interests, and politicians who care more about big donors than the American people.
That’s where you come in. We’re going around Congress to pass common-sense, bipartisan reforms at the state and local level to break this cycle and unrig our political system. We’ve already racked up over 170 wins, but we’ve got a lot more to do and we need your help to do it.
Updated February 7, 2022
Contributor: Katherine Hamilton