Long-haul truck driver Don Krimpler doesn’t get many days off. But, as a result of mistakes made by the Internal Revenue Service, he was forced to spend a paid vacation day calling the agency to fix errors it made on his tax return.
Unfortunately for millions of hard-working Americans like Krimpler, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will soon reintroduce her so-called “Tax Filing Simplification Act.” This misguided bill will require an already overburdened IRS to prepare tax returns on behalf of most Americans. Krimpler understands firsthand why this is a bad idea, and so do voters across the country.
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance recently released a new survey of more than 2,200 likely 2022 midterm election voters. The results should force Warren and supporters of a government-run tax preparation system to reconsider this misguided proposal.
An overwhelming 75 percent of voters surveyed oppose legislative proposals that would give the IRS authority to prepare and file tax returns on behalf of all Americans. And, 60 percent of voters say they would be less likely to support elected officials who champion such proposals. Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much in this era of political polarization. But it is not surprising that Americans overwhelmingly agree that giving the IRS more responsibility is misguided at best and dangerous at worse. The reasons are clear.
Krimpler isn’t the only taxpayer who has struggled dealing with the IRS.
A report from the Washington Post last year found only one out of every 50 calls to the agency’s help line made it to a human representative. As of March, the IRS was still working to eliminate a backlog of more than 20 million unprocessed tax returns from 2021. This has caused delays in refunds that 50 percent of Americans depend on to pay for critical household expenses like groceries or childcare. These are critical staples that families across the country are struggling to afford due to skyrocketing inflation.
An overwhelming 82 percent of voters in the survey currently use a certified public accountant or free or low-cost online software to complete and file their tax returns. Americans trust these private-sector services largely because they want an experienced professional in their corner fighting for every deduction and refund. The same cannot be said of the IRS, which has a clear mandate to maximize revenue for the federal government. Nobody believes that the IRS will try to maximize refunds for taxpayers.
Rob Elias is the head of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce that represents many businesses and accounting firms that help Arizonans prepare and file their taxes. These small businesses depend on revenue from tax season to keep their doors open. Elias rightly stresses that giving the IRS the mandate of preparing tax returns and collecting revenue would create “a clear conflict of interest.”
Warren should know better than to trust the IRS with more responsibility. Earlier this month, she questioned the IRS commissioner about why the agency has doubled the rate it audits households earning less than $25,000.
The IRS has a long track record of misusing taxpayer data. In 2016, hackers accessed the Social Security numbers and other identifiable information from more than 700,000 taxpayers. The following year, the IRS officially acknowledged that the agency had targeted conservative advocacy groups for audits and additional scrutiny solely because of their political affiliations.
It’s no wonder that nearly 80 percent of voters in the survey don’t trust the IRS to handle the additional personal data required for the agency to prepare tax returns.
For the last 20 years Carlos Ruiz has been the owner of HT Metals, a small business producing ready-to-manufacture steel in Arizona. Ruiz has always trusted his local accounting firm to help prepare and file his taxes because he wants “control over (his) money and information.”
Tax season is already a difficult and stressful time for millions of hard-working Americans like Krimpler and Ruiz. Sen. Warren shouldn’t make it harder by giving the IRS more authority and responsibility. The numbers speak for themselves. This bill should be dead on arrival.