Later, California's Franchise Tax Board, went ahead and made it an option anyway, but hardly anyone knew about it. It was since been superseded by California's free online option: CalFile. Of course, it's not that helpful if you have to go through the whole federal process anyway. But it serves as an example that it could work fine here in the states like the rest of the world if Congress would be willing to go for it instead of bowing to Intuit and Grover Norquist.
It’s not even an advice in the end, just a reminder the customer lost the battle, and the only alternative is to leave the field with what’s left on their posession to go roam the desert.
It's a superpower, and it is in it's entirety an example that disproves that this is the case.
"Voting with your dollars" is a fools argument designed to impart the feeling that the reader somehow has sway over a monopoly
Pretty sure there's always an option. Nihilism is the worst one.
Edited to add additional details as to what isn't supported.
I admit that they don't have quite the community links that TurboTax does, and there are some situations they won't handle (for instance, income from 2+ states)
EDIT: Ignore this comment, poster threw ID-10T exception
Last year I went to an independent preparer, which cost me around $160 and took an hour. This year I wanted to save some money so I decided to try filing myself and it was pleasantly straightforward, only taking two hours. The only tedious part was copying over the info from the W2 for both federal and state.
The only case it doesn’t handle for me is Partnership taxes — just the stuff due April 15.
Turbotax was 100% free for both with automatic imports of my forms. As long as you avoid upgrading to unnecessary services beyond their basic service, you can file for free and save PDFs of both returns when you're finished.
I have heard good things about freetaxusa.com as well.
Both are very reasonably priced, only $15 for state - federal is free. Since I have business income TurboTax wants over $100 to do my taxes.
Just one thing to complain - it didn't discover that I over-contributed to Roth and need to return a bit to prevent a penalty.
Perhaps you can let them know about the IRA thing for next year?
From their About Us page:
>FreeTaxUSA is an online tax preparation website owned by TaxHawk, Inc.
As for the lobbying, I have some vague memory of jumping to Tax Act because of someone pointing out that they don't lobby. A cursory bit of searching didn't raise any red flags at the time.
Interestingly while looking this group up I found this entire report prepared by Elizabeth Warren's staff about these types of industry groups:
Typically what I do is write a small program that asks the questions in the 1040 form, then gives me a print out of what goes in each field.
For my case, I have one source of income (employer), a couple times I've sold stock, and I have a mortgage, am single, but support my SO and her 4-year old grandkid. I've done my own taxes for the last 20 years, and only a couple times took it to a professional (once to H&R block when I sold stocks, and last year to a CPA). Both times the tax forms were exactly what I figured out on my own.
Regardless, I would pay to have such a service.
I used TurboTax this year, and honestly I was underwhelmed, especially when it came to the state forms. It didn’t really seem like it did much, and the California form experience were full of obvious bugs. Questions with no context. (“Enter city 2”) Questions being given out of order. PDFs being viewed through a mail slot. PDF forms where the entry blanks and the entries would scroll at different t rates, so you couldn’t read the form. It was super frustrating. The whole thing felt like a cheap unskilled body shop of a program, and made me want to just use a pen.
It's basically as easy as filing out a W2 if you're a full-time salaried employee with no deductions, right?
I have to file mildly complicated taxes due to getting my income from a partnership, and even that I can do in a couple hours by following the 1040 instructions, and the filling out any ancillary schedules that are required.
If you have straightforward W2 income, taking the standard deduction, and a reasonable number of retirement or investment accounts, it should take you an hour to fill out the form following the instructions. Maybe plan on a couple hours the first year, while you get used to it, but it's no so bad.
Do your taxes by hand/with free fillable forms (name of the online service), you’ll learn a lot. Just follow the 1040 instructions (it goes line by line through the form) and any related forms it tells you to do.
We either need campaign finance reform or we need to accept our government is bought and paid for by big oil, coal, the NRA, the car manufacturers, etc.
sorry for the rant
That’s how we got to this situation in the first place.
A NOAA employee told me about the time their boss caught holy hell from a Senator because the NWS had the gall to update a particular weather product they offered by adding color to the map. Evidently someone had a business essentially downloading the free NOAA data and improving it by coloring the maps and selling that as a product. When NOAA made it free, they called their Senator in anger. And said Senator slapped NOAA's wrist.
Seems like the same school of thought in a much bigger market.
The eventual dystopian end state could be where the NOAA can’t alert people to tornados and only those subscribing to a weather service would be alerted to get to safety.
You can even pass lat/long points to the forecast page and it will pull up the closest weather station, even points in the ocean work.
Apparently this was grandfathered in a long time ago. NOAA is only allowed to send weather reports by radio and on specific frequencies. Doing the same with the internet, why that would be communism!
I'm right in Boston, and I can pickup transmissions from the Blue Hill Observatory with my cheap Baofeng.
From the NPR review of the book:
> Take Trump's choice to head National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Commerce Department agency that, among other responsibilities, oversees the National Weather Service. For that critical position, Trump has chosen Barry Myers, who is CEO of the private forecasting service AccuWeather. As Lewis points out, AccuWeather repackages the weather service's own data and sells it to private concerns for a profit. Myers at one time argued that "the government should get out of the forecasting business." In other words, you want to know if it's going to rain tomorrow? Or which way that hurricane is tracking? Well, buy our app, or subscribe to our forecasts. Myers has yet to be confirmed.
In 2017, the current administration named the lobbyist and co-owner of Accuweather, who's fought the NWS as the head of the NOAA, the parent organization of the NWS:
The fox watches the henhouse when it comes to your weather. Your taxes will pay for Accuweather's profit at your expense.
Is it just the importance and influence by being a senator? Or is there some direct control? Or via a threat to cut funding?
There's a long history of people doing these things such as with monarchist theory or eugenics for colonialism and slavery. People have theories and frameworks to justify misogyny, child abuse and being harsh to homeless people.
In this case it's an ability to do whatever you want to make money without any oversight, laws, restrictions, or limitations. Being against unethical things such as sweatshops, lying to consumers, or vulture capitalism is itself unethical because it "interferes with the market" oh dear!
It's a symmetrical theoretical framework with beautiful equations to rationalize an otherwise indefensible power structure and insulate reprehensible criminal behavior as essentially the Unquestionable Divine Will.
When anyone justifies things through purity or perfection arguments they're likely pulling a fast one on you. In fact it's this fast one. This exact technique.
and you can replace ruling elite, with people who want to be that. Then you get notions like identity politics, feminism, cultural Marxism, misandry, racism.
There's an interesting second order effect here as well, that drives the narrative aggression and dissent shaming today. Democracies need to create as many of these competing theories as they can to keep people locked in constant conflict and division.
Besides that, I don't think racism and feminism stems from 'wanting' to be elite. People who experience racism just don't want to be killed and threatened, women just want the same opportunities and to be able to feel safe and not be harassed randomly.
The intentions of the ruling elite are formalized into nice-sounding theories that people get easily addicted to.
Racism is a bit more subtle than feminism, in that, "racism", as in discriminating against people of a different race, is a real thing, and it's wired in all of us. It should probably be better called "groupism" or "majorityism". All of us, in whatever sized group, have some mental concept of group identity, us vs them, insider vs outsider. That's just human nature. It's not evil, it's even adaptive. But it is NOT the driver of things like genocide and slavery.
These things are always driven by resources seeking, powerful players competing for resources. Black people sold black people to white people to be slave labor to farm tobacco and sugar.
America wasn't founded by White Christian supremacists, on a crusade against black people. It was founded by economic subjects of the British empire mad about money, and rebelling the attempts by the Empire elites to manipulate them. The civil war wasn't about our built in racism, or about how whites had gotten used to black slaves, it was about the power of a unified country, and preventing secession. Narratives had to be spun to mobilize people's passions to get them to kill for the elites who wanted to get power.
African genocidal wars are not racial. Hitler was not a racist. All of these mobilizations of injustice need a way to rationalize the economic or political driver. So narratives are promoted that hack our wired-in, benign biases and exploit them. Just like social media giants hack our reward systems to fill their pockets, robber-barons and warlords of previous eras hacked our adaptive, genetic heritage of reward and fear circuitry to mobilize large numbers of us to go kill other large numbers of us, by spinning narratives of bogeymen, evil outsiders, etc.
Then, with the narrative created, "Racism" (capital R), is blamed, rather than the actual elite-driven cause. Thus empowered, "Racism" can become a term of abuse, and people are convinced their inherent nature is at fault, when actually these massive injustices were driven by power seeking elites, and enabled by the clever abuse and exploitation of their human nature by these powerful bad actors.
Identity politics is getting more mileage out of the same outsiders bias, by defining legions of new groups, convincing people that membership of that group is tied to self, splashing in some extra strong circuitry if needed (sexuality), and getting groups to fight each other.
It's the same old trick of codifying intentions into nice-sounding theories to get people to go do stuff. It's propaganda, advertising. It's cattle herding with humans.
Wanting to be elite is just making the point how many of these new narratives are adopted by people as substitute "paths to power". These narratives actively substitute people's intentions to build a better life, and hijack their reward circuitry to get them addicted to fake payoffs such as blaming others, not taking responsibility for creating what they want, fake self-righteousness, and cargo-cult like belief that the "movement" will bring them the results. Obviously, if you want to stop people advancing in your society, you want to them be doing things that will never get them anywhere. It's an ingenious and insidious way to disempower people, by directing their actions toward useless, zero result ends, rather than having them try to actually create change or results themselves.
Elites promote these narratives for two reasons: economics and control. The more afraid, angry and triggered we are, the more we consume, and the more easily manipulated and controlled we are. The flip side is, if people actually got happy, and became aware of their personal power, they would definitely organize, rise up and create a better situation. The system preserves its own homeostatic equilibrium by keeping people triggered into their ape-brain as much as possible.
We're all a lot more powerful and good (minus the resource scarcity / resource seeking that leads to war) that these divisive fake narratives would have us think. More important than what "opportunities" someone is given, is what they do with what they have, and what they create for themselves.
The biggest thing stopping people achieving is not "structural inequality", is getting away from this idea that it's about what you "get", rather than what you "make". Nothing will stop a woman being rich, healthy, and happy, if she makes the right choices. Women can stand up for themselves, say what they want and don't want, they don't need a "movement" to get what they want, they can figure out how to get what they want themselves just like anyone else, unless they believe they're a helpless victim by virtue of their sex who has to be saved by some movement and given the success they feel privileged to, but don't want to earn.
People being killed and threatened don't need to fight racism, because our in built racism isn't bad, they need to avoid violence. If you can live in a safe society, that's your best chance. The state probably has a duty to protect its subjects, so pick a state that you like. If you don't want to move, and you live in danger, build yourself a fortress and get good at violence, because fighting the people who are trying to kill you will be your only way to survive.
every human wants self-determination, the power shape their own future, to be in control of their fate.
yet not every one of them are or become racist.
furthermore, there are theories (eg feminism) that are built on fairness (as in A Theory of Justice by Rawls), and there are those that are very much not (eg racism).
the others are simply too vague to simply deal with.
Feminism is based on convincing women they are perpetual victims, that everything wrong in a woman's life is men's fault, that their feminine nature and sexual differences are weakness, and the only way to get self determination is to emulate men (who are evil), and play the fake victim by blaming men and demanding they are given benefit's they didn't earn. It's a toxic theory that disempowers females by discouraging them away from the power of choice and personal responsibility and trying to get them hooked on the addictive fake pay-off of blaming others and playing the fake victim. It's also full of contradictions that no doubt drive neurotic and irrational thinking if you try to really "believe" it. It's a variation of the classic "creation of grievances in order to exploit them" trick. It's not about advancing equality, or women's rights. It's a political theory, promoted and propagated by elites, to divide us into groups, weaken us by attacking something very strong (the human relationship bond, the family bond, the polar sexual bond), and make us more easy to control by being locked in a state of constant triggered conflict and division. To turn us into more political animals, less close to and less trusting of each other, and more dependent on and closer to "the state" or "the cause". It's so effectively propagated because the central notion "that you are not responsible for your life, that you can blame someone else, and that's actually a good thing", is so addictively rewarding, it's a very compelling "fake solution" to all sorts of problems, and it's very hard to unhook yourself once you are taking this.
Any theory that actually aimed to advance equality among people, and the rights for one gender, should advance the rights for both, and cherish both, and not be called "fem"- or "masc"- something, but "humanism" (already taken by a philosophy), or "peopleism" or "personism" (my favorite). Personism would promote equality in the ability of people to make choices and take personal responsibility for their situations, would discourage playing the fake victim, would encourage active listening, empathy and communication about emotions, would promote emotional vulnerability as strength, and would valorise gender archetypes from both sexes (the male and female god/goddess energies) as desirable ideals of strength and power. It would empower people, unify them and not divide them or make them useful idiots and pawns more easily controlled by elites.
I think you confuse being "elite" with self-determination, and power. Ordinary people can have that too. We can all grab it for ourselves, we don't need a "movement" to "give" us those things (in fact, having it 'given' would be contradictory).
By elite I mean the people who treat the rest of us like cattle and useful idiots, to control with mass psychology, and who are actively designing and promoting social / cultural divisions to weaken the rest of us.
I expand upon racism in this context in my comment on spinach's.
My understanding is that the main opposition appears to be (1) the tax preparation lobby to protect their business interests and (2) anti-tax activists that believe that making people calculate their own taxes will make them more aware of how much they are paying in taxes.
The second argument blows my mind because I can't imagine that the set of people who would just pay the IRS without double checking their math are reviewing the tax filings from the third party they use right now. In other words, I would really like to see a survey of how people currently file their taxes in comparison to how they think they would if there was an IRS free filing for everyone or something like the ReadyReturn mentioned in the NPR story.
The point is to make filing taxes as time consuming and obnoxious (and therefore emotionally painful) as possible, ideally without the public connecting the dots and getting outraged.
From a european perspective, having tax returns that are not pre-filled, and having a tax administration that doesn't strive to make payment as easy and quick as possible is nonsensical. Why would the state not want its services to replenish its coffers in the fastest most efficient way possible?
The humans who make up the state are more keen to replenish their own personal coffers in the fastest, most efficient way possible -- good old fashioned graft. No one with significant power personally benefits from an efficient IRS with a pleasant user experience.
I wouldn't assume that the people who pay for tax preparation every year are idiots.
Please stop assuming the guy you're talking to on Hacker news is a simpleton.
In France, before this year, if you were an employee, you rarely filled a tax form, you just validated a prefilled one, usually with one click on the internet.
Now it's just taken every month from your salary, and you get a chance to correct it once a year.
But I agree the french gov is less into business.
First, a transparent system of the IRS would lower revenue.
Second, the deductibles system is very complex for the IRS to pre-calculate it, so they are unable to do it.
2019 deadlines for 1099-INT/DIV (i.e., the forms you get from your bank or brokerage) are April 1st. The IRS filing window opened January 29, with 90% of tax returns processed within 21 days. Since the IRS can't reliably pre-populate a tax return without all the required information, it would delay filing (and refunds) by 8 weeks.
As the tax refund check is the largest check many Americans receive every year, delaying that payout gets taxpayer advocacy groups up in arms and is tantamount to political suicide.
Incidentally, this same gap is where a bulk of tax return fraud happens—equalling billions of dollars. In short, if you file return before the IRS has all the information to validate that return is indeed correct, they'll usually shrug and accept it. By the time they get all the information they need, you've cashed out your refund debit card and are long gone.
I haven't seen any analysis that such a system would lower revenues (indeed, it would stop billions of dollars of fraud and tax evasion), or that the deductible system is too complex.
This doesn't really pass the smell test for me. The IRS has, what, 7 years(?) to audit your tax return. They can and will do so, and will send you a bill, with penalties and interest included. (Source: this has happened to me, around a mistake I made with self-employment tax the first year I had non-W2 income.)
Not sure how you'd be "long gone", either, unless you're not a US citizen and have since moved out of the US.
My point is that they'll "shrug", accept your return, and issue you a refund. Yes, they may come back later and say, "Actually..."
When I say, "you're long gone", I'm referring specifically to taxpayer identification fraud, where you'd file a (fraudulent) return on behalf of someone else (often a dead person or someone from Puerto Rico), receive their refund in the form of a debit card, and "disappear".
In any case, it's way easier to avoid paying someone in the first place than try and claw it back later.
Neither can I.
Example: your only bank sends your 1099-DIV on February 15, so you file your return. You know that no other bank is going to send you a 1099-DIV because you don’t have any other bank accounts.
The IRS doesn’t know this. The IRS only knows that you didn’t get any other 1099-DIVs after they’ve received all 1099-DIVs and no more are yours.
If they then receive more information later that would affect your taxes, they can bill you, or otherwise just go through the same process they would if you filed your taxes incorrectly under the current system.
1. Move up the deadline for companies to submit tax information to the IRS, or
2. Allow taxpayers to declare that the IRS will not receive any more tax information than what they already have, with penalties for lying (presumably, the same penalties as what happens today if you submit your taxes early and you yourself haven't received all the relevant information yet).
Or we could just pay the one-time hit of "you can't get your refund early" and have the IRS process taxes once the existing deadline has passed for companies submitting tax information to the IRS. I say one-time hit because after the first time, any refunds for following years would occur 1 year after the previous year's refund, just like it does today, it would just be at a different point in the year (assuming you even submitted taxes early to begin with; if you didn't, then no change).
#2 - Probably the best solution, though kind of waters down the revolution.
#3 - Probably what SHOULD happen, but again, political suicide.
Moreover, if you set up all yoyr withholdings correctly then you do not need to file anything. You only need to file if you owe (ie you set up withholding wrong) or want yoyr money back (ie your withholding was wrong)
Again, this is just for the sake of argument.
Great example of that today is that most americans believe the trump tax reform didnt help them (only 17% believe it helped them) but it literally and factually increased the income for 80%. At least one reason for that is that withholding was reduced, but refunds were reduced as well. Availability bias makes people remember refunds, but not their monthly payments.
> The law creates a single corporate tax rate of 21%, beginning in 2018, and repeals the corporate alternative minimum tax. Unlike tax breaks for individuals, these provisions do not expire [in 2025].
> My bet is that within the first year of this taxes would be massively reduced.
Making the filing and paying of taxes difficult and painful won't change a person's tax liability, it'll just irritate every citizen until we collectively demand an easier process. If you can't pay, you get penalties and a payment plan. Don't forget that the IRS is a government entity capable of legally charging, suing, etc. with the force of law. Why would having to travel to a payment center reduce someone's tax liability?
I guess I want to know more of the argument, for the sake of argument, because the argument doesn't make sense to me as presented.
It's not about reducing liability at all right now, it's about making more people anti-tax.
Economists will always say that the tax should be explicit, and it should be placed for the people that ultimately pay for it. But pro-taxes people, mainly the government, want higher revenues first, which means putting a tax wherever you can, and that is about what is politically feasible, not about what is economically sound.
The end result is a hybrid of both interests. For example, San Francisco charges sales taxes, known to be regressive and punishing to poor people, but at least you know you are paying them on a ticket. Other countries, like europe, hide the VAT taxes, so it looks like you are not paying taxes at all. VAT reaches 10~20%, sales taxes in SF is around 6%.
Making it explicity DEFINITELY reduces it.
That is not true at all. In all European countries that I can think of you get to see the whole price, including VAT so that, you know, you can actually tell how much the product is going to cost you. The composition of that price is then shown, often in smaller font. This is true of price stickers, receipts and invoices.
I do not find it the least bit misleading, and would be rather annoyed if a cashier told me to pay more money than the price sticker indicates.
The claim was that the tax caused price increase is hidden in the overall price.
And while the reasons for that can be plentiful (even consumer protection, if wanted) one effect is certainly and obviously that it hides the amount of sales tax you pay.
The VAT is usually declared somewhere in the bill.
OP is acknowledging the inverse is also true, and that if "automatic" aspects of the system were removed, people would become much more aware of what taxes they are paying, which would lead to public support for reducing the amount.
A pretty lame forced savings plan that nets you zero interest. I'd rather park the money I expect to need to pay in taxes in at least a high-yield savings account and get a couple percent rather than let the gov't have it.
But this ignores the fact that the US income tax system is actually a pay-as-you-go system, not a "you owe your taxes every April" system. You'll note that if you fill out a W-4 form such that your employer doesn't do much or any withholding, you'll find you owe late-payment penalties come April.
My guess is within the first year, they'd be reformed on administration to put less needless pain on taxpayers. My guess is also that with the needless administrative headaches so visible, it would actually make it politically feasible to pass tax increases that would otherwise be impossible, so long as you also deal with the needless administrative headaches.
Plus, I'd guess that even before that, every single politician attached in any way to creating the administrative headaches would be hounded out of office, or worse.
What happens when you don't have the cash to pay? Do we then see a whole new sector of predatory loans? Imprisonment? Increasing unpayable fines? None of those are good ideas, yet when things like this happen, our system has already fallen into these pitfalls. Witholding is an essential idea.
What would be nice is if we make the easy filing system but explicitly highlight the amount you paid in taxes compared to your income. Most people only judge on refund amount and rarely check the math on the exact taxes owed.
Without the painful transparency, it becomes too easy for the government to nearly invisibly turn up the tax rate on individuals to pay for whatever boondoggle or foreign war they see fit.
This narrative is based on nothing. The overall tax rate has been basically flat bouncing between 15% and 20% since WWII.
This would probably require some simplification of the tax code.
Source. I live in a country where the vast majority have income taxes handled by their employer. It would still be front page news if income tax rates increased or decreased.
Painful transparency is just pain.
Do it in the US and it's front page news on the day and then it's on the second and third pages January through April the following year.
How many days is it reasonable for something to be front page news? Personally I'd prefer 365 different headlines then the same one for 4 months straight.
A failing public education system and increasingly consumerist culture that encourages bad spending habits using psychological advertising tricks, to start. Go look at how little savings Americans have currently as well, which has been covered ad nauseam by most news outlets in the past few years.
> Without the painful transparency, it becomes too easy for the government to nearly invisibly turn up the tax rate on individuals to pay for whatever boondoggle or foreign war they see fit.
Given that it directly affects take-home pay, any significant change is pretty noticeable. Heck, even Trump's very small changes for the middle class were noticed on paychecks slightly, though there was also an unequal decrease in witholding that made people's refunds smaller.
While these may play a small part in why people couldn't budget for it now, I think a bigger part of it is that income tax just did not apply to most people in as large of sums that it does today.
For example. The lowest tax bracket in 1940 was 4% and went from $0-4000. Median income at that time in the US was about $950.
Check out https://taxfoundation.org/summary-federal-income-tax-data-20... for an analysis on 2015 US taxes. The bottom 50% of the US paid an average of 3.59% of their income. MarketWatch claims that 44.4% of Americans pay no federal income tax at all: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/81-million-americans-wont-...
The tax was intended primarily as a tax on the wealthy or middle class, but over time by not adjusting the standard deduction/exemptions, more and more people ended up paying the tax. You could also make the argument that more and more people became middle class.
Non-sequitur. Taxes are already seen on every pay stub and tax return. Even if taxes weren't explicitly state, simply having less money is painfully transparent.
But if I were to design a tax system, it likely wouldn't have withholding. I'd probably mess around with some weird purely transactional/continuous tax system though.
The penalty for not paying is much lower than the penalty for not filling, if you owe.
It's possible your tax prep software does their own version as a middleman, but the IRS offers it directly through the same system that quarterly estimates are paid.
You ask as if it would be a new concept to penalize people who don't pay their taxes...
There are clear laws on the books for tax evasion. No need to doubt about what happens.
I get the attempt to sidestep the regressive counterarguments normally in play with sales tax replacement systems, but I think this system would be equally regressive.
They shouldn't have to do anything more than file a W4 whenever they start a new job or their income statutes changes. That's certainly less burdensome than even just the 1040 form now.
> put temporary financial strain in place when waiting for credit for purchases
What I proposed would be a credit that would be applied to every paycheck, much like the withholding we currently have applied to every paycheck. So the wait for credit wouldn't be ant longer than it currently is before the next payday (assuming they're living from paycheck to paycheck).
> and actually make the IRS more complicated and onerous for most Americans?
Having this credit calculated based on the reported earnings on the W-2 form and filing a W4 is certainly less complex than just filing the 1040 form. Plus, most people wouldn't have to worry come later this month if they haven't had enough withheld from their paychecks in the last year.
> but I think this system would be equally regressive.
If people with less income are getting a credit on every paycheck and they spend less overall compared to people who earn more and get less or no credit on their paychecks, then why do you believe that the proposed system would be equally regressive?
This works if everyone has a exactly one job at all times that is their sole source of income, but fails otherwise. Of course, if the conditions it works were always true, irreducible complexity (that is, excluding the complexity that is maintained simply because both conservative politicians and tax-prep businesses have an interest in making tax prep onerous unless you pay for an additional service) for taxpayers of the current to tax system would be significantly less.
It doesn't, even in the case it works, address the problem that a regressive tax with a flat credit is...still a regressive tax.
The current W4 form takes dual income/second jobs into account and adjusts the withholding based on that. Changing that withholding to a credit based on income, number of jobs, dependents, etc wouldn't be any worse than it is now, but eliminating the 1040 and other associated forms would definitely be a big benefit.
> even in the case it works, address the problem that a regressive tax with a flat credit is...still a regressive tax.
We have tax brackets now based on income level. Would basing a credit on similar income brackets be any different? Or are you claiming that out current tax system is regressive and my proposal wouldn't fix the underlying issue?
Plus they have the means to spend their earnings abroad.
But a fixed credit could offset some of those concerns.
The paycheck credit I proposed should address that. Plus rich p
eople definitely spend a lot more compared to others.
> Plus they have the means to spend their earnings abroad
While that's true, they certainly could be taxes on major purchases. For example, I could buy souvenirs abroad without passing tax on them, but I wouldn't be able to buy a car and not pay the tax before titling it here.
In short, there's a reason that no other developed nation taxes this way, and they all have income taxes. And all those other nations manage to have relatively simple taxes for most taxpayers that don't require paying H&R Block to file for them.
The same thing can apply to real estate as it does for cars. That is, a sales tax you pay when you purchase the home. And the sales tax doesn't have to be a flat amount. It could be a greater percentage of the value of the home for homes that are valued at several million dollars as opposed to those that are worth only several hundred thousand dollars.
> rich people aren't going to be paying much in taxes
Isn't that the case currently (compared to what they could be paying due to all the loopholes in the current tax code)? If we focused on taxing transactions as opposed to possessions and income, then the rich could be taxed far more. Invest in stocks? Then you can be taxed when you buy them. Invest in real estate? Then you can be taxed when you buy property, etc.
> Rich people spend a lot on foreign vacations and travel, which is untaxable domestically for obvious reasons.
That is true, but it seems that the US is one of the few nations in the world that states that you have to pay taxes on income you earn outside the country (assuming you don't pay taxes on it in the other country). That said, I think that we should focus on the majority of tax payers in terms of making how they pay taxes easier and hopefully more fair.
> there's a reason that no other developed nation taxes this way, and they all have income taxes. And all those other nations manage to have relatively simple taxes for most taxpayers that don't require paying H&R Block to file for them.
I don't pay anyone for filing taxes, but it takes days to read through all the instructions for the 1040 form and other associated forms to see what applies to me and what doesn't. Personally, if I was able to take care of my tax obligation by just buying various things throughout the year and getting my full paycheck, then I would certainly be happier and not have to essentially waste several days every year figuring my taxes.
This includes capital gains, rent collected from tenants, AdSense revenue.
The right way to handle this stuff is not immediately obvious to me.
I used to make $80k per year in salary(which is far less than most of the top decile in the USA) and in one of those years had over $10k in capital gains. In the same year I thought about buying a house to rent out. I ultimately didn't do it, but if I had, then I would have had to declare the income as part of my tax return filing process.
Just as one data point.
Politics is evil...
First of all, that myth already assumes a complicated tax code which requires a for-profit middleman. We should be able to minimize our tax exposure without paying corporations.
Secondly, the vast majority of filers don't qualify for loopholes. When every tool offers the same refund, competition is for the cheapest/simplest tax experience... while the industry as a whole is strongly incentivized to create an ever more convoluted system, ensuring their yearly rent-seeking continues.
Doing taxes is a tax -- in hours and fees. Only the wealthiest people who can spend $10K on tax prep to save $100K via loophole deductions, oh.
But keep in mind, the Democrats controlled congress, so reform had to gain bipartisan support.
You are wrong that nobody paid it.
If taxes kept up, they would have noticeably higher effective tax rates than they used to have.
P.S. The “Tax Foundation” is a right-wing “think tank” (i.e. activists masquerading as researchers) funded by billionaires and corporations.
I would however recommend reading the whole paper they cite, http://gabriel-zucman.eu/files/PSZ2017.pdf
> Government redistribution made growth more equitable, but only slightly so. After taxes and transfers, income in the bottom quintile stagnated (+4%) over the 1980–2014 period while it grew a meager 21% for the bottom 50% as a whole. That is, transfers erased about a third of the gap between macroeconomic growth (61%) and growth for the bottom half of the distribution (+1% before government intervention). Taxes did not hamper the upsurge of income at the top, which grew almost as much as pre-tax.
> The top panel of Figure II provides a granular view of who benefitted (or not) from growth, by showing the annualized real growth of pre-tax and post-tax income for each percentile of the distribution over the 1980–2014 period, with a zoom within the top 1%. There are two striking results. First, the vast majority of the population—from the bottom up to the 87th percentile—experienced less growth than the (modest) macro rate of 1.4% a year. For instance, the 10th percentile declined by 0.6% a year pre-tax (+0.3% post-tax); the 30th percentile stagnated pre-tax and grew 0.6% post-tax; the 80th percentile grew 1.2% pre-tax (+1.3% post-tax). Only the top 12 percentiles of the population achieved a growth rate as high or higher than the macro rate of 1.4%. Second, even percentiles 88 to 98 experienced unimpressive income gains, between 1.4% and 2.2% a year—in most cases less than the macro growth rate of U.S. incomes for the preceding generation, from 1946 to 1980. The only group that grew fast is the top 1%, whose average income increased 3.3% pre-tax and 3.2% post-tax, with growth culminating at +6.0% a year for the top 0.001%. The top 1% has pulled apart from the rest of the economy—not the top 20%.
That said, most of those people are still going to see it as a travesty because they had to pay a little more (god forbid people rich enough to have thousands of dollars of SALT pay taxes on the income used to pay that SALT).
In the second situation, the average (complacent) citizen will not look twice at the bill, but rather just pay it and get on with their life. In the former situation, the citizen is forced to have a 3rd party create a statement that says "I owe you this much because x" and because of natural incentives, the company will try to claim the maximum number of [incentives, loopholes, deductions, whatever you want to call them] so that the client saves the most amount of money. Of course the company takes its cut and I'm not arguing that greedy companies are the perfect solution. I'm just saying that there is more to the argument than simply it being a matter of lobbyists getting their way.
Republicans only last year substantially simplified tax filing.
However I do have to file an extra sheet of paper now just to fill out a single line for foreign address that's been removed from the 1040.
Doubt it. We're talking 1040EZ filings by people in the 22% and lower tax brackets, not complex itemizations typical of 24%+ tax bracket filers.
The 5-digit PIN from the previous year's e-filing that's required if you want to expediently e-file this year is enough. Most people aren't going to remember that detail, but the e-filing service you used last year never forgot and they'll gladly auto-fill that block for you as a repeat customer.
I was not asked for such a thing, and used a different preparer this year. I was asked to set a PIN for 2018, but I have never had to use a PIN I previously set. I have always been asked for the prior year's AGI for verification. What software asked you for a prior year's PIN to file this year?
> When self-preparing your taxes and filing electronically, you must sign and validate your electronic tax return by entering your prior-year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or your prior-year Self-Select PIN.
To be sure, a filer's prior-year AGI would serve the purpose almost as well. It doesn't even matter what "code" is actually required of the filer, only that one is required at all for the convenience of e-filing. The point is it just needs to be something arbitrary enough for free filers to easily misplace record of but is routinely captured as yet another database entry by service providers. That's how repeat customers at the bottom end of the economic ladder are maintained...none of this "maximizing returns" feel good theory that the parent spoke of.
 maintaining record of prior-year AGI has utility beyond just tax returns--e.g. applying for benefits and/or services which are limited to people below certain income thresholds--but the self-select PIN is truly arbitrary and serves no other purpose, so my gut feeling is it's a more effective mechanism
It matters to your statement, which is wrong as you made it.
It matters whether the "code" needed is something the taxpayer made up for this one specific purpose or is a number readily available on the form they are supposed to print and file, and can thus easily retrieve.
> maintaining record of prior-year AGI has utility beyond just tax returns
Everyone should be retaining at least three prior years of tax returns, so anything that helps prod them in that direction is a good thing.
> but the self-select PIN is truly arbitrary and serves no other purpose, so my gut feeling is it's a more effective mechanism
More effective mechanism for what? I personally think they should just ditch the PIN entirely and rely solely on AGI, for the reason I stated above.
> It matters to your statement, which is wrong as you made it.
What part exactly? You speak from narrow anecdote in your limited encounter with 1, maybe 2, online service providers and have provided precisely zero supporting reference otherwise. I've provided corroborating citation direct from the IRS.
> It matters whether the "code" needed is...and can thus easily retrieve.
No, it really doesn't. All that matters is that it's easily misplaceable or forgotten...the more arbitrary and useless, the better it'll serve the objective role of vendor lock-in in a world where options abound and financial incentives to the filer are the same as a direct consequence of the inherent simplicity of their case filing.
You've also made certain unjustified presumptions on the ease of retrievability. Once upon a time, at least one well known service provider would produce a digital summary of your filing only after the IRS had accepted the return (not to be confused with receiving it), and this personal copy was generated for free if and only if it was downloaded before the tax year rolled over. So if you forget to download it for personal record, they'd gladly reproduce the summary any time in the future...for a nominal fee. In the past, this dark pattern disincentivized e-filing with a different service provider in subsequent years, and it wouldn't surprise me if some still pull this tactic.
> Everyone should be retaining...
What everyone should be doing from a records management perspective is both completely irrelevant to this discussion and disconnected from happenings in the real world, especially as it pertains to individuals on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder. It might surprise you at how many people actually fail to maintain a copy of their vehicle's registration and proof of insurance in the only vehicle that it would be applicable to, or how many people don't even have a copy of their own birth certificate. These are pretty damn important documents, yet surprise: the human condition is real and people are inherently lazy as fuck. That you actually expect the poorest and least educated in society in general to maintain annual records on something as obtuse as tax returns is quite naive. Do you really think the tax return service industry isn't actively exploiting the crap out of basic psychological shortcomings of society to the benefit of their bottom line??
> More effective mechanism for what?
It's the whole point of my original remark: identifying the fundamental mechanisms which are largely responsible for producing repeat conversion in an industry where options abound, the product is free, and little to no differentiating factors of value exist between competing service providers.
At the ass end of the totem pole, the game of repeat conversion isn't about which service provider is going to somehow provide a filer with the biggest tax return as the parent asserted, and to which I disagreed...we're talking about candidates who qualify for free filing; these are the simplest of turnkey cases, hence why the service is offered for free to begin with! It doesn't matter what you think about the pragmatic utility of the self-service PIN because the fact is it's one of two options mandated by the IRS as a requirement to e-file. Some service providers will require you to produce last year's self-service PIN to e-file, some will require last year's AGI...wouldn't surprise me if some require both.
That number is more like ~25mil, or just over 18% in 2017; +4.6% over previous year.
EDIT: I suppose I should probably ask what point you were trying to make? I didn't quite track where you were going with all that.
And the IRS wouldn't go out and do a system for each state.
Some would say the republicans think this is a feature.
Varies a lot from country to country, but in general they have e.g. more-or-less functional healthcare systems, better parental leave, more vacations, easier access to childcare, stronger worker protections, ....
I'm actually of the second opinion and, aside from two years dealing with medical issues with my wife, I've filed my taxes by hand for my entire life, and think everyone else should too.
I also believe people should be filing their own taxes and understanding how the system works. I've owed money the last two years by underestimating self-employment taxes, so this year I've set up a spreadsheet that tells me how much I'll owe each quarter with all deductions built in and a tiny bit of overestimation.
All the IRS does is publish the tax code in a specific XML format. MEF (mechanized e-file) is the interchange specification. It's rather a shame there's not more open source effort around tax filings...
This is one place where FOSS just isn't going to work. Let me ask you: are you willing to invest a lot of your time and effort into contributing to such a project? No, I didn't think so. Me neither.
Here's the problems with it:
1) It's not very fun. Volunteer coders don't want to work on something as deadly-boring as tax filing.
2) It's USA-only: lots of FOSS volunteers are outside the US. They're not going to spend their time on a tax tool they're not going to use.
3) It's constantly changing. The tax code changes every single year. Lots of FOSS projects become mature at some point, and only get maintenance or occasional feature additions. Most do not work according to a schedule. The IRS requires you to file your taxes on April 15, and they release the changes to the tax code a certain amount of time before that, so a project would only have a certain window of time to incorporate all these changes.
4) The risk to users is high, since there's no one really willing to guarantee this product. Of course, bugs in tax-prep software don't absolve taxpayers, but there's still a certain appearance that a big company standing behind a product makes it safer.
it's much harder to make $40k a year and write a check for $5k than to just get a net pay of $35k with the $5k never reaching your bank account. (note: No idea what income tax is at $40k)
PS: don't have an opinion if this would be a good or bad idea. can see it both ways
What you suggest is exactly how it worked before 1943 and there was a massive expansion of government, government services, and tax rates between 1913 and 1943.
The actual historical evidence strongly suggests this theory is spurious and easily dismissed.
Sadly there is a whole branch of people working on this, without any interest to make it easier..
The tax authorities also have a duty to calculate the taxes in the way that benefits you most.
Most workers don't need to do anything to get their overpaid tax back thanks to the Lohnsteuerjahresausgleich.
They need to work on their marketing though.
We've been happily using it to file our German taxes for years.
Keep that in mind when reading stories about the US government, and it all makes a lot more sense.
What happens in the real world is that the doctors aggregate (AMA, ADA) and then the patients aggregate (insurance companies) but it never quite gets to a complete single buyer/payer on both sides without government action.
There is also the argument for how many jobs will be lost in X industry if we replace it with a more efficient solution. Here is a recent video of a famous paleoconservative debating it with a famous neoconservative in the US: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YFMcq0Vzsb4
Usually the solution is social democracy - letting the private markets operate but having the government run a single payer system for the basic level of service so sellers compete and buyer’s don’t, and everyone is entitled to the basic level.
Single payer can achieve far lower prices, as can eliminating IP protection. But after a while this may have a deleterious effect on R&D (unless you eliminate the IP protection).
I see a couple of ways in which it might not be as favorable:
1. It costs more than $100 per tax payer per year to implement (about the cost of Turbotax). However the flat $100 or so that most people pay to Turbotax can be seen as a kind of regressive tax.
2. It is less effective at finding the biggest possible return.
The question is valid, but the numbers do not add up. TT asks ~$50 for federal return. If everyone in US used the service, the cost would amount to over 16 billion dollars. That is more than the entire IRS budget right now.
The better question is how much it costs TT to operate returns, and how much of that $50 is profit-taking.
There is no way an e-File system run by IRS would costs additional 9 billion dollars per year. They already do most of the calculation internally.
Anyway, the government needs to collect and verify all information anyway. So, the sum total of TurboTaxes value is creating screens to collect information. If they can do a better job than the government then let them charge for it. But, by banning the free option they are saying they don’t actually create value.
That's a great point. IRS already has most of the information and infrastructure to fill out your taxes. Third-party solutions have to build large chunks of the same thing from scratch.
Eventually. Not necessarily by the time you file, and not necessarily on every return. Remember, the IRS only audits a small fraction of returns for accuracy. Auditing every return would be a much bigger job than they currently do.
I'm not saying they shouldn't, but it isn't as trivial as a lot of people here seem to think.
The idea that some business gets to ban the government from offering a service and some people argue that it's good for eveyone is totally absurd to me.. from a country where I log in to our version of the IRS, where my salary information is pre-filled, I only need to add stuff if I had some other income.. and the system is totally free to use for everyone, and most people just spend about 5 minutes once a year to declare their taxes.
It needs to be able to (eventually), but it doesn't. Setting up a system where this was possible requires some significant changes to the tax code, process, and the IRS itself. Of course, this shouldn't stop us from trying.
I wonder what extent this is decided by how we vote. As long as voters pick the politician who prioritizes the middle man and gets their campaign contribution is selected over the politician who prioritizes the public but whose opponent gets the middleman's campaign contribution we will continue to see this behavior. The moral of the story is to look at the voters' actions and not their words. They select candidates based on oftentimes harmful criteria.
How much does someone want something if they aren't willing to change their behavior to increase the chance of getting it?
Second, I was just addressing the claim that politicians pass these laws in response to broad support, by questioning whether such broad support actually exists, even if it doesn't translate into lobbying (since the implicit model i that politicians will still care about it).
I think you're falsely equating (as do the Norquist types)
a) "the financial burden of the tax should be explicit" (which is fair) and
b) "the paperwork should be unnecessarily burdensome" (which is sadistic).
If you have no changes then you don't need to do anything at all.
In the US, the IRS supported an e-file system that basically allowed electronic versions of forms to be submitted, but it was arcane enough that a cottage industry developed to assist users in prepping documents for e-file.
How does Finland support tax preparation services; what sort of facilities do they offer for people filing on behalf of others?
Even if the US went to an IRS-pre-filled return, there would still be room for third-party tax software that improved on the user experience, so I think if the IRS supported direct filing of taxes it would also be good to preserve the ability for software or designated parties to submit information on the taxpayer's behalf.
The taxation has been pretty automated for a long time.
As a regular taxpayer nowadays I just get a paper form that describes the precalculated taxes, and if they are fine, I don't have to return anything. There are some pre-deducted things, and if I have anything add to that,
I'll then just either fill in the paper form or the electronic equivalent.
So yes, there was a basic "semi automated" scheme that has been steadily improving and now the tax authority has just added a web based interface for feeding data into it.
About filling the taxes on behalf of someone else -
There really is no need for tax preparation services unless you are business entity (in which case you likely already have your own accountant doing it) or the wealth is considerable enough to merit actual tax planning. Otherwise the tax code is so straightforward and simple that anyone can do it. If there are some questions, you can always contact the tax services and they will usually offer helpful and professional advice on how to proceed.
So there is no market for that kind of thing in the large. The "defaults" provided by government help in this regard as well.
I kinda understand the adverserial positioning of "people vs. the government" in the US - it just sounds to an outsider the main reason not to make things easier is because that would eradicate business from turbo tax. Kinda like the government mandated you need to own a useless dead parrot, that you can only buy from Parrot Co, that needs to be kept in the refridgerator in an exact position mandated by the law.
The "tax return suggestion" was introduced in 1996. So it predates all electronic filing.
Filling tax returns via a web service became available in 2008.
The first (non-web) electronic tax filings were made in 1997, but those were for corporate returns. Not sure when it became available for income tax returns (that use case is rare here).
Source: Finnish Tax Administration https://www.vero.fi/contentassets/09b6f07e61dd490ab0caabba8e... (Finnish PDF)
> How does Finland support tax preparation services; what sort of facilities do they offer for people filing on behalf of others?
Electronic tax filing using files is available: https://www.ilmoitin.fi/webtamo/sivut/Esittelysivu?kieli=en
You can use an online service to authorize another person to file your taxes: https://www.vero.fi/en/About-us/contact-us/efil/authorisatio...
The other person can then file using paper, file, or web.
In the UK, most people don't have to submit a tax return at all. Not sure the actual cost of this, but the convenience is unparalleled.
As long as your PAYE is like Ireland's (ROI) PAYE, then the American's system is far-removed from it.
Even though their tax revenue office gets the reports from businesses for how much they were paid and how much taxes they paid, the Americans still need to fill out a tax form - every year - to repeat the same information (it's an added benefit for the prison system, in that mistakes on tax forms can equate to jail time). They get a form from their employer (which their tax office also has), that contains all of this information.
>In the UK, most people don't have to submit a tax return at all. Not sure the actual cost of this, but the convenience is unparalleled.
Aye, it's the same in Ireland (ROI). You can just call-up or email Revenue and they check if you've overpaid, by how much, and they just send you the money. No forms. No bullshit. No threats of jail time. It's pretty deadly.
You want nothing to do with the Yanks' tax system, trust me.
 - https://www.whygo.com/ireland/irish-slang-deadly.html
You seem quite ignorant of the U.S. tax system. There are no criminal penalties for mistakes on your tax form. (the IRS doesn't even have prosecution authority--all it can do is collect evidence of a crime, and refer the case to the Department of Justice.)
And your tax return doesn't just "repeat the same information" as your W-2s. For example, the W-2 reports income on an individual basis, while married couples file a return as a single unit. The amount of tax owed will generally be different for married couples versus the amount of tax withheld. (And there is no federal government database of marriages the IRS can use to match up things on the back end.) The IRS also has no idea how many children you have living with you, and can't give you the appropriate credits for that.
Odd, I thought you faced the penalty of perjury?
 - https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2017/02/15/fudging-y...
> All of those tax credits you mention are given by our respective tax agencies when we become employed and/or we change status with the tax agency and/or we obtain a new job (depending on how you avail of tax credits).
There are many tax credits in the U.S. that aren't tied to changes in job status. Every year, I have to dig up receipts for what we spent on daycare, what we spent out of our HSA accounts, etc. The government doesn't track any of that.
> Odd, I thought you faced the penalty of perjury?
Perjury requires willful (i.e. knowing and purposeful) false statements in your tax return. I guarantee you that if you make false statements using Ireland's online system for claiming tax credits, you're under penalty of perjury as well.
Aside from the daycare costs (as an aside, creche in Ireland is quite decent), isn't all of that is still reported to the IRS? Your HSA isn't sitting in some dark corner that the government doesn't know about, ever since the Patriot Act, yeah?
I'm fairly certain it is reported to the IRS because Americans find getting bank accounts overseas quite cumbersome because your government strong-arms agreements that demand that Americans' overseas bank accounts are reported to the IRS. Surely, more domestic reporting shouldn't come as a surprise or shock.
>I guarantee you that if you make false statements using Ireland's online system for claiming tax credits, you're under penalty of perjury as well.
What do I get for a broken guarantee? :)
This batering back and forth really only arrives at the conclusion that I originally posited:
Those of us in the PAYE system[s] would abhor having to do things the American way and this wasn't meant as an affront (and I apologise if anyone may have taken it that way).
Our tax agencies are responsible for keeping track of these things and the only things we're responsible for is reporting status changes and/or providing receipts for other proofs of burden (such as Independent Contractors who file as Directors of Umbrella Corporations and need to write-off business expenses).
 - https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/education/pre_school_e...
 - https://www.revenue.ie/en/personal-tax-credits-reliefs-and-e...
You can reasonably assume that the IRS can use subpoena power to compel a US financial institution or foreign financial institution to surrender records to it. This is an oppositional process and they use it relatively rarely next to the total universe of taxpayers and accounts, generally only after they already have evidence of hinkiness and want to quantify unsurveilled amounts and/or locate assets.
These are not secret facts about the world; the operations of the IRS are exhaustively public (trust me, I have weird hobbies). People on a programmer-dense message board should have more weight for "While I understand that X would be accomplishable via an API if it existed, it is possible that that API does not factually exist" than they often do.
Also, the number of times someone in the financial industry typed in git commit -m "tldr Patriot Act compliance" is orders of magnitude below the number that HN comments routinely predict.
Tax returns really do take a huge majority of repeat information and a tiny amount of additional metadata.
There's no reason for the vast majority of Americans this couldn't be automated.
Alphabet Taxes doesn’t sound too bad.
My tax filing is as easy as: Login, verify, click a button.
I think you put it just right. Health and Education are the two areas this is bought up, but the taxes are a good example.
The database will be hacked and all records leaked within the fist 18 months of operation
You know, the same information they need for most people's taxes is already in the IRS database.
I'd also like to say that I've had automatic filing for my Norwegian taxes since moving here to Norway, and always have to file American taxes manually. The emails get sent to a secure email system which you can check. Letters get lost and stolen as well, by the way. The system doesn't have to go down either - I don't even have to interact. I just get the email telling me I can check taxes, but it is not required that I do. (Safer to do so in case of owing). They tell me I'll get my money in a 3-month timeframe. It goes to the same place paychecks go to, though I imagine if anyone gets checks they take longer, as do the people that manually file.
I'm also pretty sure that the reason it would be expensive is that the government isn't exactly known to keep the IRS fairly current and the government isn't really set up to handle the digital age well. But then again, the records are already there. They already plan on getting refunds. And easier filing means more people do tax returns... and it catches more people that owe. Oh, and you won't need as many people working at the call centers because fewer people will need to actually calculate their taxes. I'm gonna guess it would be a net benefit and profit within a very short amount of time.
The main people that do badly with this sort of system are the tax filing companies along with, I'm guessing, some accountants.
Weak security: 
Cost overrun: 
Inability to design a highly available website From :
> The basic architecture of the site, built by federal contractors overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, was flawed in design, poorly tested and ultimately not functional.
I'll grant that voting works only sometimes. And when it does change things, it's often not everything we want changed, and definitively not fast enough. But it can change things. If it didn't, voter suppression would not exist. (One of the ways of suppressing vote is promoting voter apathy, by the way).
The only sure guarantee is that not voting doesn't work.
Even something as seemingly mundane as voting carries a lot of risk of physical violence in some places. That's how voting was in the US in the 1870s, if you were black. It might sound like a far away past for certain US citizen, but I (an European) own a house older than that.