If only it were quicker, easier, and cheaper to prepare and file your taxes. Oh, wait—it could be. Denmark, Sweden, and Spain use a system in which the government pre-fills your tax returns using info from your employer and bank. You tweak whatever is incorrect and you're done, for free and within minutes. The US could do the same, and one estimate says "return-free filing" would save taxpayers $2 billion a year and put 225 million hours back into Americans' hands. But as ProPublica reports in a look at our national tax headache, one big roadblock takes the form of TurboTax maker Intuit.
Intuit has spent $11.5 million fighting that filing approach over the past five years, arguing that such a system could cause people to pay more than they actually owe and "curtail citizen participation in the tax process." Tax activist Grover Norquist and other groups are also against the idea, and make similar arguments. (Norquist was one of a number of conservatives who signed a letter sent to Congress this month arguing that the IRS wants to "socialize all tax preparation in America" to boost its revenues.) Still, ProPublica points out that the system would be voluntary—taxpayers would be free to continue using tax software or a professional tax preparer if they so desired. "This is not some pie-in-the-sky [idea] that's never been done before," says the co-director of a tax policy center. "It's doable, feasible, implementable, and at a relatively low cost." Click for the full report. (Read more tax preparer stories.)