Cooper introduces bill to simplify tax returns

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 11:45pm
Staff reports
Uncle Sam taxes.jpg

It is as good a day as any for a tax bill.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., will use national tax day to introduce legislation that could radically simplify the way some 40 million Americans file their returns each year.

The idea, which Cooper calls a “simple return,” is as easy as it sounds: Rather than having to spend a few hours filling out oblique tax forms, yours would arrive from the Internal Revenue Service already filled out. You would only need to approve it.

“I think it would really reverse the hassle of income tax and put all the burden on the government, make government work for you for a change,” he told The City Paper.

The IRS maintains databases of tax-identification information submitted by employers, banks and so forth; in other words, for the simplest of tax returns — W-2 and 1099 forms with no itemizations — the agency could theoretically deliver them with all pertinent information submitted. The filer would have the choice to approve it as-is, file his own return, or request amendments.

“You don’t have to accept the IRS return,” he said. “It’s your choice. You don’t even have to like this approach. I’m putting it out there to listen to people and see what they say.”

Cooper also said he wasn’t sure how much more it would cost the government in time and pay to institute such a system, although he acknowledged there would be a cost. However, he said an estimate from the Department of the Treasury said overall consumer savings could hit $2 billion.

At least one state already offers such a program. California’s ReadyReturn is a free service that has grown popular on the West Coast. Between 2004 and this year, the number of filers grew from 12,000 to more than 60,000, with nearly all saying they would use the program again.

“Why doesn’t the government make it easy to do this online?” Joseph Bankman, a Stanford University law professor, told The Kansas City Star for a recent story. “We know it can be done. It’s just a download away.”

Cooper said he expects opposition from the tax preparation industry — everyone from H&R Block to TurboTax — which pulls in some $30 billion a year. 

12 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 4/15/10 at 3:18

How about a flat tax and stop giving people back more then they paid in?

By: xhexx on 4/15/10 at 6:02

Just another typical liberal approach of dependency on the government. Let's just let them tell you how much they want? No thanks. We need to vote this idiot out of office in November. He's proven himself to be nothing more than Pelosi's bitch.

By: Kosh III on 4/15/10 at 6:39

You have the choice to do your own taxes, no dependency.

I'd prefer a sales tax be extended to all sales: 9% of the sales from lawyers, accountants, architects, landscapers etc. 9% on the sale of each and every share of stock traded. With that, income taxes could be pared back and simplified.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 4/15/10 at 7:32

id, actually a flat tax would be a disadvantage to the middle class. be careful what you wish for.

By: poiesis on 4/15/10 at 8:07

Kosh - are you kidding!? architect's already have the highest unemployment rate in this economy and profit margins are non-existent. a 9% tax on our services would be a death blow.

regarding stocks...we already are taxed on profits from investments. surely you're not suggesting a 9% tax on every trade!?

By: Kosh III on 4/15/10 at 8:36

Architects sell a product, just like lawyers, why should they be exempt? Unemployment? Welcome to the club, lots of people are out of work, should they be tax free?
Yes, an X% tax on the sale of each and every share of stock, each and every time it's traded. And then abolish the capital gains tax. Why should stock be taxed only if it makes a profit? Should I not pay taxes on my car because I don't drive it?

By: idgaf on 4/15/10 at 9:12

nazi you are thinking of the "fair" tax and you are correct. The flat tax is just that eliminating all the special interest deductions.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 4/15/10 at 9:15

no, id. i'm speaking of the flat tax. when you really look at the numbers the middle class ends up picking up more of the burden.

By: NewYorker1 on 4/15/10 at 1:37

Ok you all, today I am wearing A Fendi shirt, Gucci slacks, and Armani shoes. Sun glasses, Louis Vuitton baby. FABULOUS!

By: JohnGalt on 4/15/10 at 1:40

Cooper and the Dems will soon introduce a 2-line income tax form:

(1) How much did you earn?

(2) Send it in.

By: idgaf on 4/16/10 at 3:09

Like to see him/them push for a prohibition of getting back more then you paid in which is just another welfare program.

By: idgaf on 4/16/10 at 3:10

It's hard to believe that 40% do just that.