Thanks But No Thanks — Americans Trust Their Own Arithmetic When Figuring Taxes

December 19, 2007

A new survey on tax attitudes by Bankrate.com finds that despite the complexity of filing an income tax return, most Americans don’t want the government to fill it out for them.

Two-thirds of Americans would prefer to maintain control over their tax returns (65 percent) rather than let the government prepare their returns, if given that option.

And the IRS doesn’t want that responsibility either. They’d rather take whatever money would be required to implement that plan (probably a huge amount) and spend it on their current auditing operations.

We’ve written before here and here about California’s failed experiment with the so-called ReadyReturn. To test how Californians would react to a pre-filled-out tax return, the state mailed out 50,000 tax returns that were all filled out for people to just sign and return. 39,000 people threw them away and filled out their own returns.

That failure didn’t stop John Edwards and Barack Obama from promising that if they’re elected, they’ll have the IRS fill out our tax returns.

The best way to reduce the staggering costs of tax compliance — at the state or federal level — is to simplify the income tax code to the point where taxpayers can easily and quickly calculate their own tax liabilities. That will require fundamental tax reform.

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