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I am very confused - last night I filed my taxes in an hour flat on freefillableforms or whatever that terribly named piece of software is. I thought this was a service provided by the IRS?

I think freefillableforms.com -- maintained by the Free File Alliance -- is an example of what the article complains about:

> The Free File Alliance, a private industry group, says 70% of American taxpayers are eligible to file for free. Those taxpayers, who must make less than $66,000, have access to free tax software provided by the companies. But just 3% of eligible U.S. taxpayers actually use the free program each year. Critics of the program say that companies use it as a cross-marketing tool to upsell paid products, that they have deliberately underpromoted the free option and that it leaves consumer data open to privacy breaches.

I've never used it so I wouldn't know if it's chockful of upsell adverts. It's certainly very hard (I couldn't do it, at least not in the past 5 minutes) to find a reference to the Free File Alliance on freefillableforms.com. But this is what is buried on IRS.gov:


> Free File offers a multi-year agreement between IRS and the Free File Alliance to provide free service(s) to more taxpayers. Previously, free offerings were not consistently available and were subject to modification or discontinuation from year-to-year. With Free File, taxpayers have easy access to IRS.gov, which offers a list of all free offerings on a single web page. Under our agreement, Free File Alliance companies offer both free preparation and free e-filing services. There is no cost to qualifying taxpayers.

> Note: We do not endorse any individual Free File Alliance company. While the IRS manages the content of the Free File pages accessible on IRS.gov, it does not retain any taxpayer information entered on the Free File site.

Free File Fillable Forms are pretty easy to use for anyone, regardless of income. It doesn't hold your hand and walk you through it, but assuming you can read English at a 4th grade level, I feel like you should be able to do it. Not that I think it should be even this complicated to do taxes, but it's not a terrible option.


It's still maintained by the Free File Alliance. So you're giving your data to a third party that's not the government. I use it, but I would rather I didn't have to share my financial information with third parties to do so.

No matter what, you will always be using software and systems controlled by other entities. From you web browser, to the operating system, the data transport links, routers and switches in between, and when the data gets to the destination the software is typically written and maintained by commercial contractors hired by the government.

Right, but I would argue that this is more explicitly "putting my data on someone else's server." If it was a government server, well, it's there already anyway.

I did not know that, I assumed it was just made by Free File Alliance. It definitely should just be IRS facilitating all of this.

I've been using DIY or freetax.com. They don't seem to upsell.

I've been happy, but this year I couldn't e-file my state return and Indiana claims my daughter's was figured wrong.

I used CreditKarma and it took 10-15 minutes... afaik they didn't charge a fee either. This is the second year I have used them. I would prefer a Government solution if it was good, but there are plenty of very low cost/free alternatives out there already so oh well.

Ideally the government solution doesn't take any time at all. The IRS knows about the w2, 1099, whatever forms you are going to get, you will be audited if you don't file because they see that you didn't do anything about that form, so why do we even have to file? The IRS could do this in the background and either mail you a check or ask for a bill. Done. Filing yourself is completely unnecessary and only serves to prop up a useless parasitic industry.

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