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So the IRS mails you a questionnaire that asks these questions, you send it back, and they calculate your taxes automatically. No need for the $40 TurboTax fee, no need to type your W-2 information.

But if what you say is true and the IRS can't calculate what you owe, that would mean they have absolutely no idea what you should be paying and you could get away with paying basically anything you want as long as you're not randomly selected for audit.

They also can't force you to type truthful numbers into TurboTax, paper forms, or whatnot. Hence the audit in the first place. There's no reason you'd have to file your own taxes with or without TurboTax. The IRS just asking the questions, optionally online, and having their computer crunch the taxes ought to be a no-brainer but I don't know what the real reason is why that is so difficult in the USA (and the article didn't really answer that: I doubt Intuit has more than a squat of real-world influence on the thing).

I live in Scandinavia and that's how it works here: you basically get a proposal based on what the tax office knows (salaries, local capital gains/losses, interest deductions if you have mortgage etc.), and then you submit diffs, if any, and they calculate everything based on that.

I've only ever had to change my tax proposal when I've married/divorced/had kids or had activity in a brokerage firm abroad (who wouldn't report my gains directly to my local authorities). Buying and selling property also shows up automatically as the registration process goes through the government anyway.

Now the tax authorities have even stopped sending any papers with a return envelope. They just point to the online service where you can easily augment whatever fields that might be missing input.

As a fellow Scandinavian, I find this kind of American distrust of government quite amusing. “We don’t like it when the government controls us, so let’s have it bury us in paperwork and complicated bureaucracy whenever we want to do anything whatsoever so we remember that the government still exists”.

Also, in many cases, there could be other, existing records that could optionally be sent to the IRS about changes in tax filings -- for example, the hospital could choose to forward to the IRS birth/death notices, same for marriage certificates and courts that approve divorces.

Isn't that why there is an audit process? Audits are a tool to ensure compliance with a stochastic threat due to high cost of research and enforcement. For things they can check automatically they already do, but audits can find more detailed things, at a higher cost to carry out.

TurboTax and Quicken are free for everyone making under $60,000, which would be most people whose taxes are simple enough that it could be done with a questionnaire.

The IRS has some information about what you make obviously, because employers withhold your income. But they have very little information about deductions. Of course the IRS could calculate a maximum tax amount and put the burden on you to apply for deductions, but Republicans would flip their shit because it’d be a huge effective tax increase. They want tax season to be painful every year.

Which gets to the point that is whizzing by everyone’s head. Intuit and Quickin aren’t single handedly lobbying to keep tax filing complicated. You could probably crowd fund an opposition if that was true. Intuit and Quicken are leveraging a political situation that exists for other reasons.

TurboTax is not free if you need to include gains/loss from multiple sources of income. I.e., this year I made far less than $60,000 but as a student with a part time job, internship stipend, and petty stocks, I would have required TurboTax Premium.

Neither the article nor anyone here is saying that Inuit are singlehandedly keeping the law in place, only pointing out that they are lobbying to do so.

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