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Show HN: ustaxes.org – open-source tax filing webapp (github.com/thegrims)
465 points by aidangrimshaw 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 219 comments



Related fun (and sad) fact: In Norway, the tax submission forms are online and so user friendly that you don't need a tax filing program like this. Edit: Here is a link to an explanation for the form, in English, which was revamped in 2020: https://www.skatteetaten.no/en/person/taxes/tax-return/tax-r...

The submission form is essentially a wizard that asks you questions related to your situation and your past year. Depending on your answers, it expands different parts of the form. Other parts, such as tax exempt donations are automatically filled out based on information that the recipients filled out for you.

I visited the UX department of the Norwegian equivalent to the IRS (Skatteetaten), and they had almost every device you could think of (eye-tracking being the most fun). No wonder they made good forms.

I understand that some people object politically to taxes, but as long as it's one of the certainties of life (death being the other), I cannot understand why filling out the submission seems so hard in most countries...


In Sweden, the employers are responsible for reporting your income and banks your profits on sales of stocks, funds, and real estate. So "doing your taxes" is, for most people, just logging in and saying "yes" to the computed value. You can even just send a text to do so.


> In Sweden, the employers are responsible for reporting your income and banks your profits on sales of stocks, funds, and real estate.

This is true in the US as well, but the tax authority (IRS) gives you nothing but blank forms to fill out yourself.


Not just that it is blank, it is expected that certain things that you fill match what they already know.

It is more like a test, where you get nothing if you answer correctly and penalty if you make a mistake.

Note: IRS does provide a way to download what they know as a pdf (what banks reported, for example), so one can get some help with the "test"


I don't think this is exactly right is it? My understanding is it's not about testing you, it's just a matter of resource allocation in a severely inefficient system.

The IRS does not have the resources to manually verify all of everyone's income, so instead they use a process of flags which trigger audits of varying depth. Flags include things such as certain reported amounts/types of values. Shallow audits review some submitted records, and the deepest ones are detailed, extensively scrutinizing all aspects of all records by a forensic accountant in an attempt to identify some criminal behavior.

But I have no idea how much of this is true as I think about it. It's just some things I've intuited/reasoned out over time.


Companies like Intuit have successfully lobbied our government to halt any sort of bill that would make it better. The entire thing could be easily automated; other countries have proved that. But then Turbo tax wouldn't get to rake in all that $$$.

Seriously though, I would love (hate) to read what sort of ethical backflips they had to do to make IRS reform a bad thing. I'm presuming they tried to make logical arguments.


My state had an online tax system in test for a few years. Over the course of 3 - 4 years it was opened up to a larger group of tax payers with potentialy more complex tax returns. The final year of testing I was one of those selected to use it.

The following year it was going to be rolled out to everyone. The state had invested millions in it. The legislative session before it was to go live Intuit successfully lobbied both the governor and legislature to kill it.


In which state did this happen?


Some thing very similar happened in California: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/03/709656642/epis...


CalFile is still around, and pretty good: https://www.ftb.ca.gov/file/ways-to-file/online/calfile/inde...


> I'm presuming they tried to make logical arguments.

Why would they need to make logical arguments? Money (lobbying) is far better at influencing politicians.

However, the politicians that are getting lobbied sometimes try to make logical arguments, and they typically say that making the process harder encourages popular support for lower taxes.


Crony capitalism wins yet again.

The US needs serious reform on what it allows corporate entities to do. Your common citizen couldn't get away with a fraction of the arguable theft to the general population most these companies get away with. It's not technically "theft" though since the theives define the rules and what constitutes theft to not include their actions.

Alas, I don't know how we accomplish such reform. It increasingly seems to be yet another lost battle and perhaps lost war. Aside from consumers essentially checking out as many segments of systems and allowing them to crumble under their own weight and then rebuild them after under stricter policy, I'm not sure what can be done. Legisilation doesn't seem to reflect the needs of the many and continues to cater to the wants of a few.

I suspect Intuit and the like argue that any sort of electronic system of improvement is some direct competition to the private market and is unethical. They probably also argue that the free market version of something like TurboTax offers a more cost effective solution to the general tax payer than what it would cost the government to simply fix parts of a broken process to simplify things. In the short term these arguments could be viable but I'm pretty sure within a few years time, a tax system that didn't involve so many people spending hours of their time navigating through these commercial packages while also paying them plus many still needing an accountant to speak to could possibly be cheaper than a simplified tax system.

Obviously simplifying the tax system can have socioeconomic effects. Many deductions exist to try and fix those issues or help push policy onto citizens and some of the complexity is unavoidable as even those dedications are loopholes around existing legislation. It seems to me though we can still allow for these sort of dedications to let people who need tax relief get it and not what we currently have where the people getting tax relief are the ones with mountains of capital to hire professionals to find and exploit tax loopholes while so many who need the tax relief likely overpay comparatively as a relative portion of their total assets.


I no longer have the paperwork, but I can assure you they will just bounce your filing if you transposition a few numbers. Dyslexia is why I use a tax prep service now...


Where can you download that?


Log into irs.gov and download your transcripts. You can also call them and request they be faxed or mailed to you. But they are only usually available by about July of the tax year, so only useful if you're filing late


Make a good-faith error when you file your taxes. The IRS will send you a letter detailing what you did wrong per their records, your corrected taxes, and how to correct their records if you disagree.

That’s what happened to me when TurboTax applied too many credits.

That’s when I learned that the IRS had everything they needed to just send me a bill.


They don’t know about any deductions you might have though. If you’re not itemizing I guess that’s fine but for us that have a lot more stuff being written off it’s impossible for it to just be a bill.

That said there are ways they could build around it but it’s the IRS so that’ll never happen.


I had a similar experience, except that the IRS was missing cost basis info entirely and so they thought I should pay a huge amout, and so I had to send them the info. They were very nice about it though.


Seconded. This must be a known issue for them? It would have been nice to acquire the securities for $0 but I was not so lucky as their tax bill indicated.


As I understand it this is a result of big tax software companies and accounting firms lobbying to keep tax filing as complex as possible so there is still a market for them. If taxes were as easy to file as in countries like Norway and Sweden the market for accountants and tax filing software for private citizens would plummet.


Also the right who view tax simplification as a tax increase. The idea being that people are less involved with the process if they just click OK, and are therefore more accommodating of tax increases.


the US tax system is ‘broken’ because there are powerful interests that benefit. it goes well beyond the accounting industry.


Just to make it clear: It's the same in Norway as well. All banks, employers, brokers, etc report everything. So most of the numbers are prefilled, and if everything looks right you don't really have to do anything. What you mainly have to fix sometimes are some deductions not being applied automatically. And that's when this form comes into play. It's just a simple wizard making it easy to add these things.


In Finland it's "we think you owe X amount of taxes, if you agree, do nothing".


I wonder how many people actually bother claiming their home office as an expense for 2020. It's pretty easy to do (I did it), but the benefit isn't that massive and inaction is easier than action. The standard flat deduction for "work-related expenses" is 750 euro and you can bump that to 900 euro if you worked remotely for >50% of the year's workdays.

Of course, if you actually incurred more expenses (and kept track), you can claim that, but I have my doubts about most people doing it.


In the UK, if you've had to work at home at all this year, you just tell the tax authorities online by ticking a few boxes on their website and they automatically adjust your PAYE code (what Americans would call withholding) so you pay less tax. It means that you don't have to fill out a tax return just because of simple adjustments like this.


Sounds easier than what we have, since we still have to more or less browse through the entire form. The tax authorities actually have instructions with screenshots in English how it works: https://www.vero.fi/en/individuals/tax-cards-and-tax-returns...


have you got a link to that please?


https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home

Did it today. It takes 5 minutes. You need the normal HMRC account though.


In the US the home office deduction only applies if you are self-employed, which is really stupid because a lot of people needed to move into bigger apartments during 2020 to be efficient at remote work.


That is pretty much the case in Norway, too. You don’t even need to say yes. Silence is taken as assent. But if you do need to go beyond that, it is just like GP wrote.


Is there any good reason this isn't the case in America yet?


Broadly, a couple reasons:

- Tax prep companies like Intuit have a vested interest in keeping tax prep difficult.

- Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) believes that making filing taxes easier will make people more okay with paying taxes, and as a result, many conservative policymakers won't bite. (It's slightly more complicated than this, but I believe this assessment to be accurate.)

Here's a Planet Money podcast: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/03/22/521132960/epis...

And a ProPublica series on Intuit: https://www.propublica.org/series/the-turbotax-trap


The second one is new to me. It's really fascinating how they choose a set of policies and work hard to construct a reality that supports the policy positions. It strikes me as so backwards.

It's tinfoil hat, but my only conclusion is the actual reasons for the policy are so incredibly unpopular that they invent these realities to obscure them.


How are they “constructing a reality?” How much taxes you pay is the reality. They’re trying to draw more attention to it, by forcing you to look the numbers in the face once a year. That’s not “constructing reality” it’s drawing attention to it.

I love paying my taxes and support higher taxes with more government services. But I agree with Norquist that it’s a useful exercise for people to go through once a year and write down how much they make and what part of that the government is taking. I don’t like the idea of socializing people to accept higher taxes by deducting them automatically and making it so they never have to think about how much they’re paying.


I think I'd be more aware of the overall state of my income and how it is taxed if I were given a nice organized summary of everything the IRS already knows about me.

Take investments. The current way I get 1099-INT and 1099-DIV forms from a variety of sources. I've got to go to each source and find and download the form.

They are all laid out differently, so there is some confusion when I'm trying to find the right number to use for my filing.

I get so caught up in the mechanics of finding the 1099s, and ensuring that I've got them all, and finding the right data and copying it to or adding it to the right line on the right form that I don't really notice the numbers themselves.

If the IRS sent me something that said "Here are all the 1099s we have received from your banks and brokers. We received forms from <list of banks and brokers>", and had a nice table of the 1099-INTs and 1099-DIVs and any other similar forms, each telling me where it was from, the amount of interest or dividends or whatever, how much of that was taxable, and if it was ordinary income, short term capital gains, or long term capital gains, with totals at the bottom, I'd be much more likely to actually notice the numbers.

Even if I still had to copy the numbers to my IRS filings, it would be a vast improvement, both to making less work for me and to Norquist's supposed goal of making me more aware of how much I make and how much of that goes to taxes.


> They’re trying to draw more attention to it

That’s what they are claiming, but there are many ways (probably a lot better), of drawing attention to taxes, aside from forcing you to go through a bad process.

Additionally, if they were truthful about what they are saying, they should be trying to draw attention to government budgets and make them transparent, i.e. how much the government spends and collects.

Government spending is out of control, and clearly people being forced to file their taxes through a crappy system hasn’t fixed that. Why would anyone ever think that keeping things as they are will do it?


Drawing attention to government budgets isn’t sufficient because most people just assume “someone else” will pay for them.


So was this tried somewhere and that’s what happened? Or are you just making it up?

Drawing attention to budgets should not only be about the way the money is spent, but also about the way the money is collected.

In any case, the point still stands. There are many ways to make people be aware of their taxes, and probably one of the worst is making it hard for people to file their tax return.


> So was this tried somewhere and that’s what happened? Or are you just making it up?

It’s been tried in America. The idea that we’ll have Scandinavian-style benefits without raising taxes on “middle class people” (defined to include people making as much money as five median households) is the centerpiece of the platform of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has tremendous media visibility. Everyone acts like someone else will pay the $30 trillion price tag for Medicare for All, etc.


> But I agree with Norquist that it’s a useful exercise for people to go through once a year and write down how much they make and what part of that the government is taking.

Were it that simple, I would agree. This approach is problematic in the US because:

- the tax code is too complex for the average citizen to approach on their own,

- powerful interests such as Intuit have a vested interest in keeping things difficult for their own gain, and

- reporting your income incorrectly (when the IRS already knows what to expect!) can expose one potential criminal penalties.

> I don’t like the idea of socializing people to accept higher taxes by deducting them automatically and making it so they never have to think about how much they’re paying.

I think this is an implementation detail; there are solutions to removing unnecessary pain from tax filing that combat regulatory capture while keeping people involved with the process of taxation. Advocacy for lower taxes and tax reform are not mutually exclusive.


It's a misleading number anyway, since it doesn't include sales taxes, payroll taxes, or property taxes (whether directly or through a landlord), among other overlooked categories. For poorer people, those are actually most of their taxes, whereas for wealthy people income taxes are of course most of it.

And most people focus primarily on the balance or refund due and their marginal tax bracket, not on the total tax liability or the effective total tax rate. Lots of confused or inaccurate conclusions get drawn.


You still get your tax figures in places that do that automagically. You just don't get the suffer it out for conservative agenda experience.


The legal system is a construction, the rules we have to follow is a reality. A constructed reality.

Why is it constructed in that way? There's a reason, it doesn't come from nowhere. What is the reason?

Pretty basic stuff here


Is it the same in Canada? We have complex forms as well and software to help fill out forms.


It’s not as bad but the second reason is similar to why GST is added at the till. Certain politicians want to make sure the citizenry is angry about taxes.


Well suffice to say the population was pissed off when Mulroney passed the GST. So much he had to add extra senators to the Senate to get it passed.


Besides those two, a third one is that the IRS has been starved on resources for a long time, mostly (but not exclusively) by GOP politicians who want to make it hard to audit their rich benefactors. I had a friend who worked at the IRS his whole career until retiring (international tax law) who described the horrifically ancient systems they were forced to work with and the seriously budget limitations they had to live with. The IRS manages to miss enormous amounts of tax because they cannot afford to investigate the more complex situations, so in that aspect the politician's goals are successful.

Yet investment in the IRS is highly likely to result in recapturing the huge amount of legal taxes they miss, if they were only able to. Clearly the status quo is insufficient to actually collect the taxes currently on the books.

Of course tax law in the US is also politically designed to make policy that results in favored industries and organizations and to make this as obfuscated as possible, resulting in crazy complexity, which of course also benefits the tax prep industry.


A good reason? No. A reason? Lobbying.


Why are other countries not victim to lobbying in the way America is?

Is it just a double-edged sword that we have to thank for making us (one of) the economic powerhouse(s) of the world? At the same time, it feels like it to blame on why we can't have anything nice when compared to European countries. Am I out of line/uneducated on this matter? I very well could be.

I hate just chalking the root of problems up to some massive unbeatable evil force (like lobbying).


> Why are other countries not victim to lobbying in the way America is?

Among other reasons, America has a uniquely loose political fundraising / election spending system. If all else fails, a company like H&R Block can directly take out election ads -- with business funds -- to campaign against candidates who would support simplified filing measures. This would be somewhere between illegal and heavily curtailed in other countries.

The net effect is to give greater policy weight to issues that give concentrated benefits to (or avoid concentrated costs on) small, well-funded groups at the expense of diffuse costs (or foregone benefits) to the general public.


American lobbying practices are criminal offences that would land you with corruption charges in Europe.


And that's why all the lobbying here is done behind close doors. It doesn't mean it's gone.


Can you give a concrete example?


America has a huge economy & relatively few legislators. The return on investment for corruption in America is _huge_ compared with other democratic countries.

I do think the FPTP system in the US and UK concentrates power. And that makes them better able to exploit foreign countries (Arms deals, coups etc). But that seems less about lobbying it's more that the concentration of power makes lobbying more profitable.


> Why are other countries not victim to lobbying in the way America is?

My guess would be the will to collect taxes is stronger than the lobbying to make it more difficult. In Europe there is far less opposition to taxation as well.


One of the major reasons for the independence of the United States from the United Kingdom was a tax revolt. Anti-tax opinion is deeply rooted in the culture for better or worse.


It’s interesting to me that people assume it’s lobbying, and not the fact that Americans are the most anti-tax people on the planet, creating a strong constituency for making tax filing difficult to increase public visibility of tax rates.

In the 2020 election, pretty much every ballot measure to increase taxes failed, including in blue states like Illinois and Colorado.

Other countries have lobbying too. What they don’t have is a huge population that hates taxes with a passion.


I mean, dislike of taxation is apparently such a part of Greek culture that they've turned tax avoidance into a national sport, right? Presumably it's not just us.


You’re right, I should qualify that with “among the people who are rule-followers enough to actually pay the taxes they owe.” Nobody complains about taxes in Bangladesh because nobody pays them.


> Americans are the most anti-tax people on the planet

Our origin story is literally a tax revolt.

“No taxation without representation” — they weren't looking to get a couple of new members elected to Parliament. Definitely focused on the no taxation part.


What’s surprising is how it’s kept up through subsequent waves of immigration. My dad is an immigrant from Bangladesh, votes straight ticket Democrat, but thinks Biden’s “no tax increases for people making less than $400,000 policy” is totally sensible.



That's not really a good reason for that as we have online banking, public tax records and other sensitive services available through the web for a long time.


Intuit.


Same in the Netherlands; in most cases, filling in taxes only involves adding any extra possessions and income you may have had (e.g. crypto). But there's actually incentive to do your taxes, because you often still have to fill in your deductibles, like (iirc) rent on the mortgage.


That’s the case in Australia, too.


> just logging in and saying "yes" to the computed value

Holy crap, so if a h4x0r breaks into that website they can see the income and assets of every citizen of your country? That's nuts.

The IRS sucks, but believe it or not they're smart about keeping data secure. The massive mainframe into which all that employer-related data gets loaded is not web-connected.

In fact, not even IRS employees can access the data in there via the web. The only connectivity is through (fairly) dumb terminals with a chip-card slot. The chip-card signs each query before it's sent to the mainframe. Yank out the card and the terminal will cease to respond to your commands. The chip-card is also their employee badge.


My understanding is income tax and income is public in many of these countries.


You've got to be kidding me. Like if I have somebody's name I can just call up their government and ask what their salary is? I find that hard to believe. Please name these countries.


Finland to name one.

"As part of Finland’s celebrated transparency, any member of the public can call up the local tax office to enquire about a total stranger’s annual income and tax contributions." - https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/in_finland_all_it_takes_i...

Also tax and income data for everyone earning over 100 000€ a year will be posted publicly online (with an option to opt-out).



"You can also check if someone has searched for you. If you search for anyone, they can see that you did"

This is why it's not as bad as you think.



To nobody's surprise, this is true in Denmark too.


In the US, IRS takes the tax cut before you even see your funds in the bank account. This can be adjusted by filling out the dependents #. Basically, allowing you to have some ability to adjust based on your needs.

The IRS knows everything about your taxes. The filing process is about allowing the citizen to make deductions and providing flexibility by default.

I actually prefer it this way. Note that I’m not saying that the actual filing process is good - that has ways to improve. But, I’d rather take action on my part than government assuming on my behalf. I want to file taxes.

I feel like I might be the only person that likes filing taxes. It’s sort of a Zen mode for me. I love it.


All of that is the same here in Sweden, the main difference is: we get a pre-filled tax form with everything Skatteverket (the Tax Authority) knows about your income. You are free to adjust as you need, you can make deductions as you would in the US, we just don't have to pay for software to help fill out our forms.

Why you would prefer to have to re-enter data that your government already has and that they will match against your own data I don't really understand...


> Why you would prefer to have to re-enter data that your government already has and that they will match against your own data I don't really understand...

Complacency, complexity, corruption, and conservatism.

First, there's a strong status quo bias. The system works as-is, and the tax code is also set up in a way that's relatively simple for the median worker, so there's not a huge benefit to a change. Additionally, the IRS may not have enough data because data collection itself is decentralized. For example, married Americans typically file joint taxes, but the IRS has no way of telling who a taxpayer's spouse is until filing time.

Second, a lot of the complexity of US tax law happens on the deduction side, rather than the income side. The US has last-dollar deductions from taxes, so deductions are worth proportionally more for higher-income filers, but the IRS won't necessarily know about charitable deductions or mortgage interest or home office expenses.

Third is the aforementioned corruption -- tax-preparation firms consistently lobby against any sort of automatic return. Their arguments are relatively thin: they claim that automatic returns would have people not claiming tax credits they're eligible for and that developing automatic returns would be a waste of government money. In the meantime, they've collectively agreed to a "free file" program for moderate-income Americans -- only the program is barely advertised and full of "pushes" to paid tax offerings.

Lastly is the ideology of fiscal conservatism in the United States. Anti-tax politicians (usually Republicans) argue that automatic filing would make it easier for future governments to raise taxes, since people would not have to calculate themselves how much they're paying in federal tax. This is often coupled with farfetched offers to greatly simplify the tax code by (e.g.) replacing it with a flat income tax that collects much less revenue.


> Lastly is the ideology of fiscal conservatism in the United States. Anti-tax politicians (usually Republicans) argue that automatic filing would make it easier for future governments to raise taxes, since people would not have to calculate themselves how much they're paying in federal tax.

I kind of understand this, but kind of don't. I live in one of the countries where tax forms are pre-filled and you only make corrections for whatever wasn't already known to the tax authority. I don't really need to actively file everything (only deductions etc. that weren't pre-filled), or in the simplest cases anything, but I still definitely know the number under the line.

I'd understand it better if automatic filing meant that the total is somehow less clear to you, but it doesn't.


You can change stuff in the Swedish forms as well. Since everything i prefilled you just need to add in a number and recalculate. But most deductions would be done for you based on automatic reporting to.


The UK system is similar - a web-based form, starts off asking you some basic questions ("Did you give to charity?" "Are you a director of a company?" etc etc) then tailors it directly for your needs, with the "obvious" stuff being pre-filled from your usual employer-deducted taxes. The wording is clear and simple to understand (...most of the time - some of it is a bit "legalese" in places but it is getting better each year)

Takes about 20 minutes to do it each year if you have all of your figures to hand... (if you are disorganised and have not been keeping track of any capital gains losses/gains etc throughout the year then it will take longer as you'll need to work those figures out first)

My wife is dual-national US-UK, and she does her UK one herself without much fuss as well, but seems like she has to employ an accountant in the US to do her US return due to complexity and convolutedness.


Probably at least 80% of Britons don't even need to do it, it's only if you're self-employed, have capital gains over the allowance, extra pension contributions and you're a higher rate tax payer, etc. that you even need to self-assess.


the good reason: some people are philosophically opposed to easy taxes - people should be painfully aware of the money they are giving to the government. (sort of like folks who have VAT complain about advertised US retail prices which don't include tax)

The bad reason: Lobbying by intuit and parties to prevent easy tax preparation. Their ROI on regulatory capture is very very good.


> the good reason: some people are philosophically opposed to easy taxes - people should be painfully aware of the money they are giving to the government.

That’s only a good reason if you’re opposed to the actual programs and/or outcomes. If you favor those programs and outcomes, making people “painfully aware” of their cost almost certainly undermines them. Which...

> The bad reason: Lobbying by intuit and parties to prevent easy tax preparation. Their ROI on regulatory capture is very very good.

Tax prep companies certainly don’t have this kind of power, and only one of the parties has that platform. That’s who’s invested in making taxation feel painful. Not just in terms of awareness but in policy too.


I think you need to catch up with the investigative reporting on just how hard Intuit has lobbied to limit free filing, and how entrenched the deal is in IRS leadership.


> That’s only a good reason if you’re opposed to the actual programs and/or outcomes. If you favor those programs and outcomes, making people “painfully aware” of their cost almost certainly undermines them.

Not at all. I support bigger government providing more services. I’d happily pay a lot more taxes. But I also support forcing people to grapple with the cost of government once a year. They should be making the informed decision to pay more or less taxes, not acquiescing to it merely because the government automatically takes their money and makes it so they never have to think about how much.

My brother in law, who is 20 and just starting to have to pay taxes, called my wife and I to complain. It’s an easy form for him to fill out, but he had to write a check because his employers didn’t withhold enough. I felt like it was an excellent learning experience.


> But I also support forcing people to grapple with the cost of government once a year.

But that's one-sided: people do not have the same requirement to "grapple" with the benefits of government once a year. That feeds right into known cognitive biases, where we underweight small but steady effects and overweight concentrated effects.

If you had a "yearly day of reckoning" with your partner where you re-hashed every argument, fight, or disagreement from the previous year without commensurate attention to the benefits, I daresay it would not be good for your relationship.

Moreover, this approach doesn't even seem to be effective at instruction. In particular, many people don't seem to understand the difference between marginal and average tax rates (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5724773/), which is a precondition for understanding the system as a whole.


> But that's one-sided: people do not have the same requirement to "grapple" with the benefits of government once a year.

Presumably you experience that every day. Moreover, politicians spend tons of time talking about those benefits.


> Presumably you experience that every day

That’s the kind of thing that becomes invisible when contrasted with a major personal economic event.


Having the government just send you a yearly "bill" showing your total taxes already withheld, calculated tax owed, and the balance, which you then start from to file extra deductions or whatever, seems more effective to me in that sense than the current system. The average user of TurboTax or whatever really only sees or pays attention to their refund/shortage number and not the actual amount of tax paid.

The current system feels more calibrated so that people have a negative association with the IRS, rather than being well-informed about how much they're paying.


>Tax prep companies certainly don’t have this kind of power, and only one of the parties has that platform. That’s who’s invested in making taxation feel painful. Not just in terms of awareness but in policy too.

You'd be surprised.


> That’s only a good reason if you’re opposed to the actual programs and/or outcomes.

Your argument seems to be that if you pay more taxes, then you get good programs and services.

In a similar vein, you should give your kid lots of lunch money to take to school, because he would have a more nutritious lunch. :)


My argument is that I would rather live in a society that benefits from the services afforded by my taxes than live in a society that overly scrutinizes them. I don’t much need for those services thank goodness (anymore, thank goodness), but I’m sure glad they exist for the people who do need them and I’m not about to start pinching those pennies at “time to fill out an annual form”. And I trust the judgment of “money well spent” from people with expertise and investment who share those values much more than random cranks who just see their own forms and complain.


I understand your point, but I believe it should be "trust but verify". Checks and balances are a normal part of any stable structure of governance, and they should always be there.

One thing that confounds me is how do taxes tend to increase as a percentage (and will it only end because of mathematical limitations like the laffer curve?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laffer_curve


>>That’s only a good reason if you’re opposed to the actual programs and/or outcomes. If you favor those programs and outcomes

Most of the people that philosophically opposed to easy taxes, are philosophically opposed to taxes in general and by extension most of the programs the taxes fund.

I am one of those people, doubly so for income based taxation which IMO is unethical. I prefer a Henry George Style single tax system for public finance but that is beyond the scope of this thread


The "good reason" you provided, even if it were an actually thought out consequence of the US system, isn't really delivered.

In reality, people are painfully aware of how annoying filing taxes is and hopeful that they will get some money back later. The system is so convoluted, most people pay someone else to take care of it for them. Not to mention, most people barely understand what's happening when they are filing their taxes.


yea, I would much rather the IRS be mandated to send out a Yearly Statement itemizing every dollar spend by Category in the previous year by the US government, at minimum at the Broad Category level (i.e Social Programs, Military, Administration, etc)


I think something that would help to make people much more aware of their tax rates is getting rid of automated W-2 deductions, so that virtually all taxpayers would individually have to pay money out of their own bank accounts.

Having the filing process be complicated or tedious doesn't really do much to give people a more accurate perspective on the financial burden of taxation to them. If you could get your tax forms filled out automatically in 10 seconds but the result was "you have to send the IRS a check for $10,000", that would have a far greater awareness-building effect than having to spend 4-6 hours dealing with forms and paperwork only to conclude that "you don't owe any taxes" (because the money was already withheld as you earned it over the course of the year).

Of course, this change would also cause a lot of hardship because quite a lot of people would find it difficult, for various reasons, to save up money to pay taxes if they weren't having someone else do it for them automatically. And I'd expect that this hardship would probably lead more in the direction of political pressure to reinstitute W-2 deductions rather than pressure to reduce or eliminate income taxes.

Having worked on W-2 (salary with automatic deduction from each paycheck) for my whole life until last year, when I switched to 1099 (making quarterly estimated tax payments and sending the tax authorities a check), I really had the "wow, I never quite noticed how much I was paying in taxes before!" experience.


I’d go further and make the filings/payments due the Tuesday after the first Monday in October (about a month before general elections) so the debates on government programs and policies can be held in context to what those programs cost.


Same thing for me! "That's a third of my salary!"[1] But after getting a master's degree for free from the government and looking forward to free health care, kindergarten and cheap public transport for the rest of my life, I can't really complain.

[1] Note that the Norwegian tax system is progressive, so median wage earners don't pay as much as that.


The American tax system is much more progressive. Median wage earners in Norway don’t pay that much, but as I understand it the top tax bracket kicks in around 1.6 times the average income (under $100,000). In the US, the top tax bracket doesn’t kick in until $518,000 for single people.


> some people are philosophically opposed to easy taxes

I listened to a couple of episodes of Planet Money a while back that others might find relevant. They address how some state / local governments raise money in regions where opposition to taxes is high.

The Liberty City (https://www.npr.org/2019/10/18/771371881/episode-945-the-lib...)

Fine and Punishment (https://www.npr.org/2021/02/12/967260423/planet-money-fine-a...)

Essentially, the subjects of each episode use the justice system to raise funds from speeding tickets, court / prison fees, etc.


In Singapore income taxes aren’t taken off your paycheck. You’re expected to save enough to pay your taxes the following year.

They do allow installments the following year, so you can replicate the monthly deductions, but it’s plainly apparent how much you’re paying since you need to pay it separately each month.


You'd be hard-pressed to find any other developed country than the US where it's not similar to that.


Having filed taxes in Germany, Switzerland and Norway, I can give you two developed countries where it’s not similar to Norway. Not as bad as what I hear from the US, but not simple either.


Great! Do you have an example of a form from your home country (assuming you don't live in the US)?


Most UK citizens never fill in a tax form.

VAT is handled by shops for you.

Council tax (local tax based on property value) you are sent a bill based on the value of your property. There are various exemptions and deductions for exceptional cases, but otherwise you just pay the amount.

Income taxes are deducted by your employer from your paycheck under a system called PAYE (pay as you earn). It works basically perfectly if you have one job, and can even cope with multiple jobs, variable income, etc.

If you have an issue with incorrect income tax, there is a friendly call centre who are generally knowledgeable and can fix things with minimal effort on your part; and they also handle some common exceptions (e.g. dividend income under £10,000) over the phone rather than via a form.


> Most UK citizens never fill in a tax form.

Note that if you earn over £100K, and/or sell more than £45K in shares/options in a year (so probably a lot of people on here from the UK/London-area who work for a BigCo?) then you must fill in a tax return even if all of your income is otherwise PAYE. In this case it takes just mere minutes but I guess they like to check everything really is simple.


> Council tax ... exemptions and deductions for exceptional cases

The 25% off for single occupancy is very common rather than being an exceptional case, but yes applying for it is very easy via an online form (if you are organised and apply as soon as it becomes relevant) or a visit or phone call to the local council office.

Also applies to multiple occupancy if all or all but one of the occupants are full time students.


I would 100% opposed to this type of opaque tax system where the amount of money taken by the government is never reveled to the people it is taken from.


I don't think anyone would support that, but that's not what happens -- you can see the breakdown of gross/net salary & taxes on every payslip you receive from your employer, as well as on your annual P60 https://www.gov.uk/paye-forms-p45-p60-p11d/p60


This would be more similar to the IRS sending you a filled out 1040 along with a note:

> We have provided a pre-filled 1040 based on your W-2s, Form 1099s, 1098s etc. We have made the following assumptions while preparing: > your marriage filing status remains unchanged since last year, > your dependents remain unchanged since last year, > you have no income beyond that reported to us, > you do not qualify for any deductions/ credits beyond those indicated in forms we have received. > > If all of the above assumptions are correct, you may sign the enclosed form and return it. Otherwise, you may use the provided pre-filled numbers and worksheets as a starting point, and make the necessary changes.

In the above scenario, one can very clearly see the amount of tax one paid, and the amount of income, as both are clearly indicated on the "postcard"-sized main 1040 form (which is a good joke as basically everybody will have one or more additional forms they need to attach to it.)


In France for example, when it's time to declare your income you receive an email (or a letter if you prefer). You log in with your fiscal number and password, and get an online form where you can declare any type of income. For most people, the numbers are pre-filled (communicated by the employer). You can modify them, check your bank account IBAN for paying/refunds, and validate.

In Spain it's the same, except unfortunately they don't notify you when it's time (although the whole country has a month to do it so you can't really miss it). Also their login system is a bit more complicated than a password, they have a special 2FA system you need to setup in person.

There are no calculations to do, you just enter your incomes and deductions by type and it calculates your taxes for you.

In both cases, you can also use a mobile app for all of that. And you can choose to do it on paper, by physical mail.


Good on you! That sounds surprisingly modern compared to what I've heard about for example online banking in France from people who were exchange students there. From what I've heard, you have to show up physically for most bank stuff. Is that true?

Disclaimer: I was told this by people who were exchange students there at least two years ago. Things may have changed and/or be different (i.e. harder) for foreigners.


> From what I've heard, you have to show up physically for most bank stuff. Is that true?

That was true until maybe 10 years ago? Today you can easily open an account online and never show up to a physical agency. If the bank you chose even has one.

But due to the way France works, with the different administrations forbidden from sharing information between each other and no central citizens repository, processes work on the customer themselves passing documents back and forth between the different administrations or companies, which makes it more difficult as a newcomer. Say, the bank will ask for a proof of identity and a proof of address, you have the proof of identity but the proof of address must come from an ISP or utilities company, which in turn requires a bank account. So you have to first find an ISP that will accept payment from your foreign account, etc.

It's different for example in Belgium, where once you're a resident all your information is there in a repository of the federal government and tied to your national number, so you don't need anything more than your identity card to sign up for a bank account. It's much easier but on the other hand, I don't really like having all my information in a single place like this, I just find it a bit unsettling that the police can look up your car's plate and call you on your cellphone to tell you that your car is badly parked.


You can do pretty much any bank operation online these days, at least the most common operation like opening an account (life insurance, PEL, CEL, livret A, etc), getting your RIB (bank ID pdf), making transfers (one offs and recurring ones), declare a lost credit card, etc.

And it has been like that for a while (I remember opening a PEL online and configuring a monthly transfer to fill it when I started working 10 years ago). Maybe all the banks are/were not at the same level, but with mine, BNP, it was possible.

Also, now, I also have bank accounts in a more "international" bank (HSBC), and to be honest, even if the website as the same functionalities, HSBC website is a lot more clunkier, mixing the old and the new than BNP's one which is reasonably good looking and easy to use.


It depends on the bank, but most allow to do everything online or by phone. Personally I haven't visited a bank office in the last 15ish years; before it was fully online I could do the rest by phone/email.

Actually more and more people use online-only banks now, without any physical office. I couldn't visit my banks even if I wanted to.

Probably exchange students don't know the market and go to the nearest branch, so it might not be the most technologically advanced option.


Here's a (poor) image of what the prefilled form you get in the mail looks like in Finland: https://www.ts.fi/static/content/pic_5_856409_k792913_1200.j...

Top left is the form section. The orangeish part is the prefilled value and the white box next to it is for corrections. Top right is a breakdown of your finances, bottom left is a breakdown of the tax calculation and bottom right just contains some payment slips.

Not sure how many people actually bother with returning the paper form these days as you can do it online as well.


UK here - the forms are here: https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-forms-and-helpsheets

Unless you have a very special circumstance (e.g. you're a Lloyds of London name) you can file online through the HMRC website which does all of the calculations for you and is mostly just a case of entering a few figures from your P60 and P11D for the vast majority of people.


Canada.


In Denmark I just call the tax authority and ask them to do my taxes for me. They're really friendly about it and it's done in five minutes.


I think the Danish tax authorities must have taken some sort of customer service course in recent years. They are always so friendly, when I call them, that I think there must be some scam going on.


Finnish tax administration has been getting into memeing lately. https://www.instagram.com/verohallinto/


> I cannot understand why filling out the submission seems so hard in most countries

The fact that schools do not teach makes it crazy too. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that if you make it easy, mistakes cannot be made therefore you cannot exploit the few bucks here and there out of a large number of people who are not tuned to the tax filling process.


> The fact that schools do not teach makes it crazy too.

I'm in the US, and I was a high school math teacher for 20 years. I tried teaching everyone how to do taxes, and people hated it because if you make people do fake taxes it's incredibly boring. Then I developed a "financial literacy" unit where students could choose a focus, such as analyzing investments, analyzing credit card policies, analyzing loans, or doing taxes.

About half the class chose taxes each year; making things like this optional significantly increases engagement, because many people end up recognizing they really would like to understand how to do their own taxes. It was also eye-opening for many who were surprised what impact things like "tax brackets" would have on their income. It cut through so much propaganda that's shouted about taxes in the US.


When I worked in Norway I forgot to ask for my tax return to be produced in English (since I spoke no Norwegian.) It was still easier to complete than the US one.


Truth is taxes in the US are pretty easy too; you just have to find TurboTax's free version which they hide. It downloads info from your financial institutions and employers, and asks you all the relevant questions. It remembers your info from year to year, and sends you reminders. You just have to dodge a bunch of upsell offers. TurboTax lobbied the US government to prevent them from building a competing product, and in return they have to offer a free version. So in a way, TurboTax is our official state tax preparation system. Yay free-market?


My understanding of the TurboTax free edition is that it doesn't support anything beyond basic income received from an employer. For those that don't really know the tax rules (including myself), are not the higher editions practically a requirement given they cover investing scenarios, house sales, etc...?


>My understanding of the TurboTax free edition

is wrong. TurboTax has a product they will sell you when you search for "turbotax free edition". They will allow you to fill it out for free. They will hold your hand (for free) while you do it. What they won't do is file the return you filled out, until you give them money. For that, you need to go find the actual free tax return (start at https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/) and do it all over again, if you fell for the ads TurboTax bought.

EDIT: The above is correct if you made over $72k in 2020. If you made under $72k but still have questions about your investment options and house sales, please don't give me financial advice.


This is really cool, and I'd like to encourage work like this. I currently don't think I can recommend this to others because:

It isn't immediately obvious who is running the site. whois info lists a Canadian privacy company. The site doesn't have an about page. Github has contributor info, which may help. Tax returns need to be private and accurate. If it's hard to verify that the authors are even in the US, it's had to know if this is a scam.

I think the project is still young, and the above is likely something addressable. Partnering with some accountants may be a way to fund further development/maintenance through referrals. Good luck!


It looks very easy to just build this from source, which is what privacy-concerned users would do anyway


That sounds like more trouble than just learning how to file your taxes?


Building from source is probably easier for a non-tech user than filing taxes that are anything more than a basic W-2.


Not all who are privacy concerned are build-from-source savvy.


Heh, I'll probably build from source, and then run in a VM (via QubesOS) without Internet access.


Won't you need internet access to submit your taxes?


I didn't look into how it works yet, but you're likely right. Does the IRS have an open API like that? I was assuming it generated pdfs or something.


E-File is a thing but I'm not sure how open the API is. This app specifically just generates a PDF.


From their website: You need to be an authorized e-file provider (1). I'm guessing that if you're approved, you'll get access to their API. And you'll show up in their list (2)

1: https://www.irs.gov/e-file-providers/become-an-authorized-e-... 2: https://www.irs.gov/filing/e-file-options


That whois information is interesting, I registered the domain through google domains. The Canadian company is probably being used by google for whoisguard reasons?

The site runs client side only, with no external API calls, so assuming you trust the code in the repo is the code being served to you then no data can leave your computer. If you're curious you could probably verify by clicking around on the site and checking the network calls made to ensure there's no external API calls


For the past ~decade I've mostly been using OpenTaxSolver, a file-based open source US tax utility. It's worked for my uses.

It'd be appealing to try to factor out the underlying translation of the tax code and IRS form layout into some very simple DSL that could be used by multiple kinds of software.


You might be interested in the French example, if you don’t know already. They designed the Mlang DSL for tax calculation, and released a bunch of things on GitHub.

Here is the compiler: https://hal.inria.fr/hal-03002266v3/document

https://github.com/MLanguage/mlang

They’ve also open sourced an official calculator, along with web APIs: https://github.com/openfisca/openfisca-france


I agree, at some point I may try to factor out the tax calculation portion and add it as an external npm package or similar.

The only similar thing I could find was https://www.npmjs.com/package/taxee-tax-statistics but that package has some security vulnerabilities and does not seem to be actively maintained.


You could just reuse the code from opentaxsolver and run it through emscripten. Here's an old version I made a few years ago: https://github.com/jfim/1040.js


Thanks! I'll check it out


Yes, having a simple and well defined DSL it might help with tax planning. The difference is it allows one to optimize taxes under certain objective, instead of just enter numbers and see what comes up.


In Germany the official application to submit your taxes as a private person to the state has been a windows application for years. Using the app was a 1:1 copy of the official paper forms. Disregarding the complexity of the german tax law, you had a reference to the papers. So it was kind of easy to use the digital counterpart one was accustomed to.

It was disimproved by hauling it into a web app, which breaks with all the usual connections you built with the paper equivalent and is the most UX unfriendly monstrosity one could create. From this year on you HAVE TO USE IT. I deeply disrespect this regression, which forces many people into paying a tax office for their private tax submission.

I wish for a swedish/norwegian system, where the state courts you for YOUR money. I don't know a single person in Germany which states: "I love doing my tax submissions!"

EDIT: Typos plus last paragraph


I'm on my entry position and I had the pleasure to file my taxes for the first time in my life a few years back.

The web app is absolutely awful to use and offers easily the worst user experience I've ever seen. I gave up and decided to seek help by a Lohnsteuerhilfeverein, which is really comfortable but still way cheaper than a tax office. The only annoyance is, that they'll just help you with your tax submission if you're employed or on state benefits. They can't help you if you're self-employed or a freelancer which is somewhat annoying


Related project:

OpenTaxSolver (http://opentaxsolver.sourceforge.net/):

OpenTaxSolver (OTS) is a free, safe + secure program for calculating Tax Form entries for Federal and State personal income taxes. It automatically fills-out and prints your forms.

I've used OTS for the last three or four years now to do my taxes, it does work for the task.


This app would be the prime project for GitHub donations.


I once tried to model tax forms as code and one thing I learned is that using observable / computable model (as in mobX / knockout.js) works pretty well for computing tax.

For example:

  this.totalDeductions = this.computed(() => {
    return this.isItemizing() ? this.itemizedDeductionsAdjusted() : this.standardDeduction();
  }).form("f1040-131"); // 131 is reference to a field on the tax form

  this.afterDeductions = this.computed(() => {
    return this.adjustedGrossIncome() - this.totalDeductions();
  }).form("f1040-133")

The other thing I learned is that taxes are ridiculously complex.


Computing tax

Noticed this comment.

https://github.com/thegrims/UsTaxes/blob/master/src/irsForms...

I wrote some python a few years ago for this purpose

https://github.com/adsharma/tax


Thanks! I think that comment is actually from before the computeTax function was fully implemented. If you fill out W2 and spouse information on the website the correct tax rate should be calculated in the printed 1040 form


In Portugal, because everything you buy you need to provide your VAT number, even if you buy one coffee. And all medical are also electronic. And your employer also submit all the money you earn. Taxes are automatic. You just need to review and add extra stuff if needed. It takes about 10/15 min to do. Of course there are exceptions!


There is no obligation to give your VAT number.

But many do because you have a tiny chance to win a lottery. Yes, they do it even for one coffee (0.70 euro...).

I do not understand why there is still no system to easily transfer that fiscal number. For example with a qrcode or RFID. You pay electronically with card, often only by just touching your card, phone or even watch, but then have to give a memorized 9 digit number which the deskperson has to type correctly.


Can one not purchase anything anonymously? The state is allowed to keep track of everything everyone buys? All for a little tax benefit? That is horrible.


> Can one not purchase anything anonymously?

You can. The VAT number is used to enter you in a lottery where you get a small chance to win some of the taxes you paid back, but that is optional. The goal of the system is to increase compliance with tax laws, by having consumers ask businesses for receipts and pressure them into paying VAT.


This is a cool project. As a user entering information in a pdf file with hundreds of input boxes stresses me. Hiding the document until after I enter all the information makes it easier to file tax.

But it would not be feasible to use this for most of the people. Tax is often vastly complex and it ignores all those parts. I don't have any capital gain, any properties or any uncommon income such as from rent but even for me this would not work because I get 1099-INT forms from bank (for 1.25$) and there is only W2 option under income.

I am also a nonresident so I need to use 1040NR another block there but I am not even talking about that.


Other types of income are definitely in the works, W2 income was just implemented first because it's the most common and the least complex. Rare types of income like trusts (K9) will probably never be supported though because of the support burden


I like the code of conduct. If you can get a contibutor's guide and TODO list up, I'd bet you can get a couple contributors (especially around tax season). If it ends up covering a lot of the tax code in a few years, maybe the US Digital Service would consider hosting it.

I like that it's all browser-based, but the problem is that I, the user, have no way of actually guaranteeing it's not POSTing somewhere else. It's the same problem with browser JS crypto. So I would suggest that in addition to a note explaining how no personal data leaves their browser, also link to a guide on how to download and run it on a local computer. (Is it possible to export a single .html or .js file that a user can open with their browser? And a SHA512 checksum to verify the file?)


Not sure if you want to use the actual ustaxes.org website and input your real SSN without any security audits.


I've wondered why this didn't exist for a long time. I thought I heard something about an issue of liability in case some part of the process is incorrect, which the "Big Boys" (TurboTax etc) have worked around or priced into their business model.

At any rate, I'm grateful, and I will consider using this. I may just have to find a way to doublecheck the work done.


Why not print dollars (with expiry date) instead of taxes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Currency_in_circulation#Total_...


A few things:

The title in the HTML is still "React App"

There is very little information about this. Why should I trust this? I see the option to print, is that my only option?


Because it's a quite simple react act for which the OP linked the repo instead of the website for a reason? You can scan the source pretty quickly, or run it from a VM with no internet access.


Is this federal only or state as well?

The readme and website appear to be kinda thin on details. Cool nonetheless.


This is federal only right now, I plan to work on state taxes in the future, but I wanted to get the basic federal forms done first. The readme also definitely needs some work! It's on my list of future improvements :)


In the Netherlands the tagline of the tax authorities used to be "we can't make it funnier, but we can make it easier". Most tax forms are online and pre-filled with data they already have. For most people it's probably a matter of minutes.


I prefer the US style actually. The government assumes flexibility, citizen’s responsibility and their ability to challenge their calculations / deductions by default. When that’s not the case, there is 1040-EZ [1] for people who want to simplify. 1040-EZ can be done in 10 mins max.

I also enjoy filing taxes. It’s one of those things that allow you to reflect on your work, how you did, optimize the deductions, and get a reward at the end. It’s fun.

[1] https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-1040-ez


Note that you can still do all those things in the Netherlands, you're just comparing the stuff that's already in there to your own documentation.

For most people, it's a case of quickly doublechecking all your income/property numbers and then spending some time on items you might be able to deduct.


The 1040EZ was eliminated in 2018.

All you want would still be possible under a system where the govt pre-fills forms. It’s just the 99.9% of Americans who DON’T find it to be fun would get a leg up.


Don’t forget the state form that you have to do. Add that to your ten minutes and complexity rating.


Imagine having state income tax, couldn't be me.

- A Texan


Filing taxes is too often ambiguous, which negates the fun


How would you know that a project like this is computing taxes correctly?


A future improvement I am looking into is adding unit tests for tax calculation. If the project gets popular enough I would probably hire an accountant to verify everything.


When using a well-known site like TurboTax, while I'm totally appalled by their business practices, I have at least an assumption that I can do my taxes half decent (and not too much more than that either). It will be really hard for an open source project to gain enough momentum for me to have the same confidence. For a lot of other open source projects I can just try, and see what happens. But I'm not going to try and see what happens if I'm ever getting audited. And I'm using (begrudgingly) TurboTax exactly because I know nothing about tax code, so the unit tests (yet to be written) would not tell me much. I find this project very sympathetic, though, but I'll have to pass.


That's absolutely fair! I think finding a solution to this will be key to any kind of mainstream adoption


A practical self-test would be to enter up your last years tax return as is and compare the assessment to what you actual assessment was.

[Having proper unit tests as specs is a much cooler answer.]


Various tax law changes could make that inaccurate.


I think he means comparing output of the app for 2019 with what you filed for 2019. Not using the app for 2020 with your filings from 2019.


Ok how do you do state taxes in this? I don't see California option. Also no privacy policy on the hosted one, you really think people will trust giving their sensitive information like that?


Right now only federal taxes are implemented but state taxes are in the works! The site is implemented client side & no external API calls are made so the code in the repository is the only thing that would be touching personal information.


It’d probably be helpful to say on the homepage that no data leaves the user’s computer. As it is, it feels very risky to use the site


That's a good idea


Doesn't California have a free of charge webapp for doing your taxes?


Yes, it's called CalFile.


If you read french or want to dive in the mostly english code, you can fork https://github.com/betagouv/mon-entreprise.

It doesn't fill tax forms, but it's a set of simulations and a framework to write more models and generate UIs automatically.


I have a company in the US, I was going to avoid paying taxes this year, because I found the process hard and actually we don't have enough money. But as I understand it, you need to work with an accountant, and you need someone to fill it for you if you are outside of the US. Can you fill it online in the US?


Filing taxes is a solved problem in many countries so it's very disappointing it's still so difficult to do in the US. I'm glad to see open source engineers taking matters into their own hands to disrupt this corrupt industry.

If milestones and a growth path can be clearly planned and communicated, I think many people would happily chip in to help fund a project like this.

Something like this page would be nice: https://k9mail.app/2021/02/14/K-9-Mail-is-looking-for-fundin...


Are there plans for a matrix or checklist for supporting different income types, forms, or some other way to measure support levels?

Looks like you are using typescript React here. Any driver for that choice?


A checklist of supported forms is something that's in the works. Right now the only supported type of income is W2 wages.

The reason I chose React is I wanted the site to be client side only, fitting with SPA, to avoid having a database of social security numbers that could be breached.

Typescript is being used to help make sure the right types are being used when the form is submitted. Income should be in number format & names should be in string etc. I've also just found it pleasant to use


In France you get online taxes per-filled with all information. It covers almost all the cases (including when you hire someone to help you at home) so for 99.999% of the popolation it is a matter of 5 clucks, for z total of 2 minutes to fill in your taxes.

I actually do not understand why this is not automatic. If you have a special case you would need to act, otherwise it accepts by default.

I read a few times about the lobby of tax software companies in the US, it is really weird that they can get away with such practices.


Turbo Tax has a limit on number of trades. And takes a long time to process them. Are they sleep'ing a lot or does it really take a minute for 100 trades?

I'm wondering if this can be improved. Especially for cryptocurrency processing. The cryptocurrency tax solutions are woefully inadequate. I was surprised considering how much marketing and polish they have.


Love it!

I have a technology that will be really useful for disrupting tax filing in USA.

Basic pitch is here: https://github.com/breck7/copypastetaxes

I'd be interesting in talking about some type of collaboration if you're interested in chatting! Email is in profile.


What I hate about the US system is every year I have to convert my brokerage tax statement into a schedule D line by line or the IRS duns me because they only know my stock sales, not my purchases, which is nuts.


This is true only when you move some of your money from brokerage account to your bank account right?


I'm happy paying the modest fee for taxact. I do agree America has such an annoying tax system though. Why am I filling out forms if the irs already has this information!


For the most part, they haven’t processed it by the time April 15 rolls around. Your tax transcript is often incomplete until late summer.


Suggestion: Add support for Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. If the trend is remote work, focus on the remote workers who would prefer not to pay income taxes.


As a US citizen overseas I hate filing pointless US taxes. Sending paper forms half way around the world with no confirmation is archaic.

In theory I'd love a tool that could save me wasting my life on this every year. However, would I trust it? Not from a malicious standpoint but it seems there's been lots of changes over the last few years and I'd need to know the tool had been properly updated. To do that I'd have to go and read all the updates/instructions each year (just like I do now) and then also check the tool was correct. I'm not convinced a (free?) non-accountant DIY method helps when the monetary cost of it being outdated/bugged could be significant.

I guess you could argue that this is no different from any other open-source software and it's my choice to either personally audit it or assume someone else already has - including all the schedules I use. I'm struggling to understand why I have more of a concern with this compared to, for example, my web browser. Perhaps I am just especially (and irrationally??) fearful of the IRS and the consequence of getting taxes wrong.


No offense but I think they should be focused on common scenarios (income types and deductions that are likely to have many users), methods of verifying correctness, and long term maintainability in the face of a changing tax code.

Expat workers seem so niche and there may be different requirements depending in their specific situation.


As an expat worker, a tool like this would be super helpful. Most of the automated tools (paid included) don't support the expat market, so electronic filing is basically impossible.

Part of the problem is a pervasive sense that if your are an expat, you are somehow guilty of something or not patriotic enough or some other undefined sin. All of US law seems to expect that you are US resident, yet we apply it globally.


No offense taken and I see your point. My feeling generally is taxes should be easier, and not require a tool at all. So focusing on a niche could give this app an edge and ideally encourage more people to go out and live their lives and enjoy their money.


I disagree and I actually use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion every year.

My taxes are much more complicated because of this and I think a separate niche tool would be better.


I would recommend having some indicator on which sections of the tax form you've completed, as you're able to skip forward to different sections.


Love it.

True to form, it still has the title "React app." I personally have shipped things to production without changing the CRA boilerplate title :).


Can anyone explain how the end wire-format works? Can I just fill an XML and POST it directly to some service (like I assume a paper form would work?)


But good luck getting your returns received by the IRS in the mail. It was 6 months before I gave up and paid someone to e-file for me.


Thank you for starting this.

It's something that needs to exit!


I don't usually comment on typos, but that one could be confusing. I assume you meant "needs to exist", is that right?


> exit!

exist something that needs to exist.

Not sure why I can't edit the original comment.


There is two hour edit window to edit a comment and it looks like you just missed it.

@dang if you happen to see this, I wonder if you may want to fix the typo and delete my followup comments?


Finally, a free to file tax form. The IRS should do this by default.


Software for the people!


Remember when Trump promised we can file our taxes via postcard?

I remember.


imagine submitting your social security number and sensitive PII to a website that was created during covid 2020-05-10T08:44:50Z which doesn't have a contact us page even if it is all in browser. is this a business? do they have insurance?


Haha, I am fully convinced now that lots of HNers actually don't know how to use Github. Are you guys not software engineers? Use the source code, my dude. Read it if you want. Run the program if you want. It doesn't even take that long.

And like, if you're even halfway competent you know how to run the program without Internet access.


not everyone is a genius like yourself. you will understand when you are older.




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