Leahy, Sanders Join In Reintroducing Bill To Simplify Tax Filing

Vermont’s U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I) have joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others in announcing that they will reintroduce the Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2017 to simplify and decrease the costs of the tax filing process for millions of American taxpayers.  This year taxpayers will spend an average of 13 hours preparing and filing their returns, and will pay $200 for tax preparation services -- a cost equal to almost 10 percent of the average federal tax refund.

The legislation would direct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to develop a free, online tax preparation and filing service that taxpayers can use to prepare and file their taxes directly with the federal government, if they choose to do so, and would prohibit the IRS from entering into agreements that restrict its ability to provide free online tax preparation or filing services.  Their bill would give all taxpayers the right to download third-party-reported tax information that the IRS already has, and would provide those with simple tax situations with a return-free option.

Originally introduced in the 114th Congress, The Tax Filing Simplification Act has been endorsed by more than 40 law professors and economists and is endorsed by the National Consumer Law Center on behalf of its low-income clients; Americans for Financial Reform; the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy; Americans for Tax Fairness; and the Hispanic Federation.  The bill will be introduced when Congress resumes its 115th session.  Joining chief sponsor Senator Warren as original cosponsors are Senator Leahy and Senator Sanders, as well as Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

Warren said:  "The tax preparation industry wants to keep Americans locked into a difficult and expensive tax filing process -- that's how they turn big profits.  Some tax prep companies even resell taxpayer information to third parties or use tax filings to push new financial products.  I am reintroducing the Tax Filing Simplification Act to stand up to these companies and give all taxpayers the option of free, simple tax filing."

Sanders said:  "Tax Day has become an opportunity for corporations to profit off of confusion over our complicated tax code.  That is wrong.  The Tax Filing Simplification Act would end the absurdity of Americans having to pay private companies hundreds of dollars to pay their taxes.  We must make tax filing as easy as possible, not direct profits to private companies at the expense of working families."

Leahy said:  "Anything that can be done on behalf of taxpayers to simplify the tax code or to make the process easier is not only worth doing, but it needs to be a high priority.  The tax code has been cross-stitched into such a complicated pattern that many taxpayers want and need assistance.  The Tax Filing Simplification Act is a ready and useful tool, and the IRS should be supporting it.  A free online tax return preparation and filing service can give Americans a more stress-free and cost-efficient tax season. The third-party system in place today is not fair overall, and it needlessly keeps taxpayers in the dark about ways to make filing easier, and that's why I continue to support this practical legislation."

The text of the bill is available here, and a fact sheet is available here.

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