As Tax Day Approaches, Senators Will Introduce Bill to Simplify Tax Filing

Bill Text, Fact Sheet

Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with ten other senators, today announced plans to 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. The Act 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 over 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, with original cosponsors Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

“The tax preparation industry wants to keep Americans locked into a difficult and expensive tax filing process – that’s how they turn big profits,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “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.”

“Each year, Americans spend far too much time and money navigating a needlessly complex process to file federal taxes,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen said. “The Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2017 is a commonsense solution to make Tax Day easier, saving taxpayers valuable time and dollars.”

“American taxpayers are forced to spend too much time and money filing taxes when it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin. “If Washington would finally act on commonsense reforms at the IRS, we can simplify tax filing and make it less expensive for taxpayers.”

“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,” Senator Bernie Sanders said.

“Every year, Minnesotans spend hours of their time and hundreds of their hard-earned dollars preparing their taxes,” said Senator Al Franken. “Our bill will simplify the unnecessarily complex process Americans go through to file taxes, help protect sensitive personal information, and allow families in our state and across the country keep more money in their pocketbooks. The IRS should be working to make the filing process as easy as possible for taxpayers, and that’s what this bill does.”

“Tax Day should be as painless as possible for taxpayers,” said Senator Tom Udall. “But I regularly hear from New Mexicans who tell me that the unnecessarily complicated tax filing process is costing them valuable time and hard-earned money. This long-overdue legislation will simplify tax filing for millions of Americans, protect individuals’ private information, and save families money by enabling them to file their taxes for free. There’s simply no good reason for Congress to delay this commonsense reform.”

“This bill would require the IRS to build a better, simpler tax prep system – one that saves Rhode Islanders time and money while protecting their personal information,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

“Taxes don’t have to live up to their name and be so taxing for already busy and cash-strapped Americans,” Senator Edward J. Markey said. “We need to simplify tax filing so that American households are spending their time and money on their families, not forms.”

“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,” said Senator Patrick Leahy.  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.”

“Too many hardworking Americans are forced to spend needless time and money providing the IRS with information it already has,” Senator Tammy Duckworth said. “This bill simplifies the tax-filing process for millions of Americans, and that’s just common-sense.”

“Filing taxes should be an easy process, but instead it’s frustrating and confusing for too many Americans. It’s long past time for Congress to come together to pass reforms at the IRS to simplify the tax preparation and filing process,” Senator Maggie Hassan said. “By directing the IRS to develop a free, online tax preparation and filing service, the Tax Filing Simplification Act is a commonsense measure to help make filing taxes easier and more affordable for countless Americans.”

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

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