Every now and then, various lawmakers propose a move to have the IRS provide free tax preparation software to the public to save the taxpayers from the money spent on hiring professional tax preparers. The most recent proposal was advocated by Sen. Mark Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin in mid 2011. The lawmakers argued that taxpayers spend a lot of money hiring tax preparers and this can all be avoided if the IRS were to provide free tax preparation software to them. However, even though such a move would help many taxpayers prepare their tax returns, there are still some arguments against this line of thought. Some of the arguments posed by the opponents of the proposal are:
- Complex Tax Code – The tax code has been changed so many times since the tax law was enacted in 1913. In fact, the tax code has been significantly altered 28 times since 1913. Besides the significant alterations, every year, Congress passes various modifications and alterations to specific aspects of the tax code. This has made the tax laws very complicated for the average taxpayer. In fact, some of the tax provisions remain unclear even to tax professionals and the IRS staff. In fact, because this is such a significant issue, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) releases a report every year that reveals large sums of taxpayers’ money lost annually because of a misunderstanding of the tax code. Therefore, the main reason that taxpayers will go to tax preparers to file their returns is because of the complexity of the taxes (as opposed to the convenience of preparing the taxes via proxy).
- IRS Budget Cuts – Another argument against provisions of the free software by the IRS to taxpayers is the budget cut on the IRS’s resources. The House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on financial services reduced the IRS budget for the 2012 fiscal year. The committee approved a budget lower than that of 2011 on the pretext that the Federal government needed to cut on spending, owing to the large Federal deficit. The IRS may even be forced to cut jobs and to place a hold on its various expansion plans. Therefore, introduction of free tax preparation software for taxpayers may be least of their priorities at the moment. The free software will cost funds that the IRS simply cannot afford to exhaust; they will have to spend more funds to train taxpayers on how to use the free software if such a move were to be commissioned.
- Too Much Information to the IRS – According to various surveys conducted in the past, many taxpayers avoid any direct interactions with the IRS because of their unwillingness to divulge a lot of personal information to them. Tax-preparation software will require the taxpayer to provide a lot of their financial information to assist them in preparing their tax returns. Therefore, many taxpayers would avoid using the free tax software from the IRS in the fear that the IRS would get too much of their personal information.
- There is Free Tax Preparation Software Already – Another argument against the launch of free tax preparation software by the IRS is the fact that there is already free preparation software available. The Free File Alliance and Vita Software have been providing free filing services for a while. If software were truly the issue, then many taxpayers would not pay for professional preparers and instead, go for these free software (which is not the case). This underscores the fact that tax complexity, and not software convenience, is the main limitation for taxpayers and highlights their preference to seek professional tax assistance.