The astro-turf campaign by major tax preparers against the IRS’s plans to offer free online tax filing is descending into parody. For decades both Republicans and Democrats have campaigned around programs aimed to simplify tax compliance. Meanwhile the IRS has been fighting to make such a program available to the public over fierce, well-funded political opposition from both parties.
Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, has found the perfect ally in their fight to stop the simplification of tax payment – Grover Norquist, far-right icon and President of Americans for Tax Reform. Perhaps it’s from Norquist that they learned how to organize “grassroots” outrage against yet another example of IRS oppression.
The company may have discovered that a public political campaigned aimed to “protect my massive fortune from the effects of competition” somehow failed to generate enough energy. Instead they are sponsoring a “Stop IRS Takeover” website. They are campaigning to stop the “Big Government” takeover of tax preparation the evil Obama Administration.
From the Communists over at ProPublica:
In an emailed statement, Intuit spokeswoman Julie Miller said, “Like many other companies, Intuit actively participates in the political process.” Return-free programs curtail citizen participation in the tax process, she said, and also have “implications for accuracy and fairness in taxation.” (Here is Intuit’s full statement.)
In its latest annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, however, Intuit also says that free government tax preparation presents a risk to its business.
Roughly 25 million Americans used TurboTax last year, and a recent GAO analysis said the software accounted for more than half of individual returns filed electronically. TurboTax products and services made up 35 percent of Intuit’s $4.2 billion in total revenues last year. Versions of TurboTax for individuals and small businesses range in price from free to $150.
So far not even Tea Partiers have been gullible enough to fall for this. Perhaps if Intuit had invested more energy recruiting Glenn Beck instead of Norquist they could have laid better astroturf. Nonetheless, the company has been consistently successful in blocking efforts to simplify tax filing.
The mechanics of this so-far successful campaign provide disturbing insights into the way Washington works. This is the kind of issue that should be at the center of the Republican agenda, yet it’s clear that much of what IS at the center is designed to distract the public from this problem and feed this monster.