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This kinda feels like one of those acquisitions where all the special sauce that makes the acquired company a great company is the exact opposite in the acquiring company.

That is, from all I've heard, Mailchimp is a great company to work at, and the founders definitely had the "scrappyness" that let them become so successful without VC funding, and their customers really like them too.

Intuit, on the other hand, is basically the poster child for "regulatory capture" company. Also, since employees don't have equity (though I'm assuming they'll get fat bonuses for this), it's bound to cause some level of strife in the company.

For anyone who (like me) didn't know the first thing about intuit, I looked them up on Wikipedia. Some highlights:

> Intuit offers a free online service called TurboTax Free File as well as a similarly named service called TurboTax Free Edition which is not free for most users

> Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, has lobbied extensively against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) creating its own online system of tax filing

> [I]nvestigations by ProPublica found that Intuit deliberately steered taxpayers from the free TurboTax Free File to the paid TurboTax Free Edition using tactics including search engine delisting and a deceptive discount targeted to members of the military.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intuit [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TurboTax

It's worse than that. They lobbied to create the situation where taxes are so complicated that most people need software to figure it out.

Taxes were complicated long before Intuit, its designed that way to benefit the wealthy. If it were simple they couldn't cheat.

Intuit lobbied to keep the tax system complicated. In theory the IRS could do your taxes for you and ask for corrections. For most people, they have all the information needed to do taxes and would save people a lot of stress and money.

Yeah prefilled tax forms are like defecto in Europe.

Think you mean defacto :-D

It has also the defect of not just calculating, it takes it from the source, and employers are obliged to comply. It's less headache for tax payers, but makes it harder to not pay. Which until so long ago wasn't even an obligation.

Soon we will be getting the automatic calculation, for a fee, and taken from source. It's already starting to happen, medium and other digital economies are doing that. Forced to collect from source , and they pass on the cost of the system to tax payers.

If we don't attack the idea of tax, I think it will never end.

Just like taxes can be used to kill people in foreign countries, it can be used to save people from fire and illness, educate them, etc.

When you try to defect from paying tax, you may have in your mind the people not killed with your money, but others in society will (correctly) recognize the people not saved with your money and wish to punish you. This is basic tit-for-tat group behavior. Tit-for-tat makes it possible to solve the prisoner's dilemma cooperatively.

I don't think the downvotes should necessarily be interpreted as punishment, though, it could also be because people think the above rationale is so obvious that your post has negative value (little information, noisy).

I would gladly take the positive aspects, but it isn't obvious to me those are significant, I think they are part of the problem.

I'm sorry if the questioning of taxes is noisy information, and I glad you took the time to answer with arguments.

I agree there is a group behavior at play there. You mention education, my own education was nearly in full paid by tax payers. I only had to sustain myself during all these education years, and I spent the rest of my life re educating myself, which came at lower cost but greater effort than getting educated by non government funded bodies.

Fire and health are different issues, which I'm sure would also be handled better than with public funds taken by force.

Informational maybe, but the taxing system we have today wasn't what founded America and made the great country it had become. We can look at specific issues such as turbofax and questionable lobbies, but these are plugged onto a taxing dogma that would need to be discussed more than the intricacies of its implementation.

I appreciate your explained view, I can only agree with what you've taken the time to point out.

Oh, those who think taxing is legitimate, downvote all you want. Take a moment to explain this to those who refused from the get go to go around the world spending a portion of this money to bomb millions of people, costing over 2 trillion dollars in Afghanistan alone, money I think would have been sufficient to fund a hospital for everyone who needs it in the entire continent.

Looking at the behaviour of the United States government, I sympathise with the anti-tax Libertarian types. The obscene misuse of tax money while infrastructure crumbles is plain to see. Dollar for dollar, American citizens seem to get less for their tax than most other developed countries and far, far more of it goes towards the military budget which, as you point out, is used in aggression.

But don't make the mistake of thinking the American experience is the universal one - one of the reasons these anti-tax arguments fall on deaf ears internationally is that a lot of countries actually do use tax to look after their citizens to some degree. One of the reasons Libertarianism never caught on globally is because there's little appetite for dismantling government institutions that are, for the most part, working.

The problem isn't tax, it's the behaviour and culture of the government.

I don't make that mistake. Here are a few different countries i live in demonstrating the same issues:

France: over 20% vat, about 50% on income for median pay. Uk: 20% vat, over 40% of median pay. Malaysia: 10% gst Vietnam : 10% gst, over 33% income

Those aren't the only taxes, just the most obvious ones. Western and Asian countries, from very developed, to somewhat developed, and under developed. Please show me where those taxes have benefited the people.

Any tax critic in here is always downvoted. I only ever saw 2 comments as a response. Why is it most dont see that taxes are just a way to fund barely checked agencies causing either havoc, or failing at their task?

You're not wrong. Please don't conflate taxation as a concept with the actions of a corrupt plutocratic prison state like the USA.

In the more socialist capitalist countries, taxation is an effective way to mitigate the effects of the parasitic merchant class.

Like where? I m happy to look into a few you would consider a success.

Yep, filing tax in The Netherlands for many people has become a 5min. click-through + submit experience.

Those don't exist in Germany. I don't know about other countries, but that's already 10+% of Europe where they're not a thing.

If you have only wage income in Germany, as I understand it, there is no need to file a tax return. So you are correct there is no “pre-filled form.” But the system is simple and automated enough that a great many people don’t have to do anything.

Maybe we are talking about different things, but you can definitely pre-fill your tax form with employer and social security data in Germany. In that case, you only have to add information if you want to claim deductions higher than the "Werbungskostenpauschale".

Things usually only get difficult when you are self-employed or have difficult deductions.

Sure, you can do that, or you can have a software do that. But you won't get it filled out by the state + "sign here if everything looks okay".

Plus you always need extra forms for savings etc.

I think this is a case of UK=Europe, even though UK's claim of not being "European"

Not sure what you mean here, in the UK we do not have to do anything for our taxes. They are automatically handled, and in the rare case you need a refund, it's automatic and if you paid less for whatever reason, they just increase your taxes over the next 12 months or whatever.

Ehm… no?

For W2 employees yes, but they don't have the info on self-employment and business income, which is quite a lot of people.

I know, and I don't disagree with that. Intuit has been an boil on the ass of tax code, but it's got a lot of boils.

In France taxes come pre-filled. Cheating is equally simple: you just "forget" to fill additional fields.

No, TurboTax seems like a clear case of lobbying where millions are inconvenience just so that a handful of executive keep an underserved revenue.

Maybe there's no "design" and it's complex as an emergent phenomenon from never being refactored as new rules were added year after year; the result benefits those who can pay others to figure it out, basically the rich.

What makes taxes complicated for an average Joe in the US, who's got a job and doesn't engage in some complex activities that are more useful to the top 0.1% ? I used to do my own taxes in the UK and while the process is fairly straightforward (would never pay anyone to do it) but the terminology in some cases is outright silly. Now I'm in Lithuania, where I could file my tax returns just by logging into my online banking. It'd be interesting to see how it's on the other side of the pond.

Nothing. It's basically just an exercise in copying info from a few sources into a web form.

Once you have your W2s (basically an annual pay stub) you can click through any of the free tax services in under an hour. If you have mortgage interest or student loan interest add however long it takes you to get those forms (they usually mail you a form telling you what you need to know for your taxes that year) or dig up the PDF version on your online account with the creditor. I just magnet the forms to the fridge as they show up at the beginning of the year and file once I have them all.

Those free tax services exist because they lobby the government to keep it from offering free filing itself so companies can push paid services to free filers who don't really need those paid services.

Yes and? That doesn't affect the answer to his question. Regardless of who's letterhead the guy who built the web form's pay stub is on the process is still the same. Having to click "no" on a few more screens doesn't make it much more challenging.

Isn’t most of the complexity associated with itemized deductions, which at lower levels of income default to a straight-up standard deduction?

Or are you referring to some other provisions?

1. Your employer already reports how much you made to the government. 2. At the end of the year the government could just send you a summary and give you the ability to apply deductions.

The above case would cover 99% of people.

Instead you have to do a whole bunch of song and dance using some third party and hopefully the numbers match.

They could also assume that not filing assumes standard deduction. The government is already told about nearly everything. The weirdness comes if you work two jobs or are self-employed, which is why the quarterly estimates exist.

So the biggest complexity is in terms of capital investments as opposed to income.

Basically if you are paid money and put that money in the bank, you pay yearly income taxes on the income the money earns.

If you are instead given a bunch of stock shares, you don't pay taxes on the stock when the price goes up, only when it's sold, which leads to all sorts of possible ways to side step paying taxes, or put them off and then paying them in a lump sum, or paying interest on loans secured with the stock, where the loan isn't considered income for tax purposes, etc.


> Isn’t most of the complexity associated with itemized deductions

I had to laugh a little at this, its like saying, "CPUs, isn't that just a bunch of switches?" Yes, you are correct. But it's been nearly a century of wealthy people hiring lawmakers to create hundreds of thousands of esoteric deductions that are only accessible to people who own business that they can fiddle with, aka rich folks.

In the grandparent post you were excusing Intuit’s lobbyism by using a what-aboutist look-the-other-way argument to appoint a different entity (collection of “rich people”) as the designated tormentor for tax code complexity.

I surmised that complexities introduced by that group are irrelevant in calculating standard tax return costs, as no one requires a low income earner to deal with vagaries of obscure deductions. It’s mainly Intuit who should be blamed for beefing up those costs.

You seem to agree with that statement in your subsequent comment, so I’m no longer sure about the insight you are trying to drive through.

Is it just a trivial “taxes are complex, man” thesis?

> In the grandparent post you were excusing Intuit’s lobbyism by using a what-aboutist look-the-other-way

I did nothing of the sort. You inferred your own narrative and are now blaming me. Know what that is called?

I must’ve misread. My apologies.

Agreed, and to make jobs/keep people employed.

> its designed that way to benefit the wealthy

"Design" implies intent requiring coordination and effort on the part of a group of people strategically situated to deliver a result. "To benefit the wealthy" identifies a clear and well-defined objective as the focus of such activities.

Who came up with the original idea to "design" a tax code "to benefit the wealthy"?

Was it more than one person? Names please.

What were the design principles? No hand-wavy stuff, looking for specific objectives, etc.

Over what period of time?

Can you provide a year-by-year (or close enough) summary of the progression of this design and how it met your stated purpose?

How? By this I mean: How was such a coordinated effort organized and run over, presumably, decades and through various generations of politicians participating in the process.

And, for all of the above, documentation please.

I remain puzzled about whether people just stay stuff like this or actually believe it. You don't have to make too much of an effort in digging into these ideas to fully identify them as nonsensical. Yet people believe this stuff without having one shred of proof, evidence, history or documentation. Not very different from folks who believe the COVID vaccine injects you with tiny little robots the government can use to control you (one of the things people say and I don't really know how to react other than to shrug and wish them well).

I'll add my own observation to this: No, the US tax code is not designed to benefit the wealthy. It is based on incentivizing behavior through tax breaks/credits.

For individuals the simplest example is the ability to deduct your mortgage interest from your income. Another example is the 30% solar system tax credit (I think it's down to 26% now).

At the business level you get such things as Section 179 tax credits, which allow you to reduce your tax burden by as much as 100% of the purchase value of qualifying business property. For example, when we purchased our last Haas CNC vertical machining center and all the tooling and software required to design, program and run it, we got a Section 179 tax credit of nearly $250K.

The theory behind these incentives is to promote behaviors. We bought equipment. The tax code treats this as a desirable behavior because it creates jobs. The options were: Send the IRS a check for $250K or send them $0 and use that money to buy additional machining capabilities. This is what is called a "no brainer". Everyone wins.

This is why businesses can seem to pay zero taxes. Well, if they invest enough money into things the tax code wants them to put money into, they get to pay less taxes. Yet, in certain circles, this is treated with blinding ignorance; the headlines often reading company "x paid zero taxes". Nobody bothers to understand any of it.

For the record, I don't like the idea of using the tax code to control behavior. I think this is (was) a terrible idea. It gives politicians tools they should not be able to access. Taxation should be as simple as possible, to a limit. The problems start once you try to simplify it. For example, "You must pay 10% of your income". OK, someone sets up an LLC and pay themselves very little. They pay very little in taxes. This is a very simplistic example to say that one of the reasons for which the tax code quickly gets convoluted is because, in software developer terms, it has to be a massive chain of "if-else if" statements in order to address all permutations and limit cheating to the extent possible. Once you start down that path you end-up with never-ending complexity because we don't have a way to control it.

Perhaps a simpler approach would have no income tax at all for anyone (state of federal). All the money needed to run governments at various levels comes from taxing transactions. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of options here. For example, tax every electronic funds transfer; tax every single imported good; national VAT, etc. Not a simple idea. There are no simple options. Maybe that's my point. It wasn't designed to benefit the rich, it turned into a monster that requires more and more "if else-if" statements to be added every year because we find more and more conditions that require evaluation. It's crazy. Not sure what they right answer might be. Not sure there is a right answer at all. And, no, what they do in (country) "m" has no bearing whatsoever on what is done or should be done in any other country. Tax codes evolve almost like natural selection, they respond to evolutionary pressure and each makes sense (to the extent possible) within the nation it evolved from.

That was a lot of extra words around the crucial bit:

> It is based on incentivizing behavior through tax breaks/credits.

Who do you think has time and money to spend lobbying for new tax breaks to their benefit? Hint: it's not the poor

It’s everybody. Politicians lobby for breaks for their constituency, as well as increasing taxes to raise revenue. Companies lobby for breaks for their industry. Issue groups lobby for breaks (or taxes) to encourage behaviours they want to see. Even the poor do this, albeit typically via unions or other collective means.

It's a comforting thought, but I can assure you the poor have virtually nobody lobbying on their behalf. Not having disposable income and all.

This isn’t going to be a popular comment, yet, it has to be said because it is painfully obvious reality escapes some.

Here it goes:

The poor do not elevate the poor out of poverty.

If you want to chip away at poverty you have to create incentives for entrepreneurs, investors, business people and, yes, the rich, to engage in favorable economic activity. One of the simplest ways to do this is through the tax code. As much as I hate using taxation to promote behavior, that’s the best way we know so far.

We have lifted more people out of poverty through these methods than any other way.

Be careful what you wish for, because government has never, in the history of humanity, elevated the poor. Quite to the contrary.

For one, taxes are levied by governments not the free market. China has lifted 800 million out of poverty and wasn't because they all of a sudden decided to collectively pull their bootstraps. The free market is what doesn't alleviate poverty, quite the opposite.


> China has lifted 800 million out of poverty and wasn't because they all of a sudden decided to collectively pull their bootstraps.

The disconnect in what you are implying here is astounding.

China elevated massive numbers of people out of poverty precisely because they turned violently capitalistic and entrepreneurial when it comes to business, far more so than likely any other society on the planet. The main decision their government made was to get the heck out of the way.

I can understand that people who might not do business directly with Chinese companies likely lack an understanding of what things look like. Well, I do, have been for decades. I am sad to say doing business with Chinese companies can be massively easier than with US companies. The entrepreneurial spirit and drive in China is incredibly strong and refreshing to watch. You actually want to do business with them because they want to get things done.

If you think government has the power to raise 800 million people out of poverty in complete isolation of a massive step change in business activity you don't have even the most fundamental understanding of economics.

This is one of the most perplexing things I continue to experience on HN. This is a Y-combinator related forum. You'd think people voicing opinions here would have a modicum of business and economics chops. You'd think that, at the very least, they would devote a bit of time to doing simple math before forming opinions. And yet, what you see here time and time again are comments such as yours, which reveal a deep disconnect between even the most basic understanding of how the world operates and the importance of business.

FDR’s New Deal certainly helped a lot of poor people in the USA, as did the roll out of the welfare state and NHS in the UK, and pensions in Germany.

That said, government intervention is not sufficient. It must come with structural improvements, and not just be free handouts. And too much help can also be counter-productive by crowding out the very thing it’s trying to nurture.

> FDR’s New Deal certainly helped a lot of poor people in the USA

Not quite. As is usually the case with such programs, people tend to form opinions based on what is easily and externally visible. Reality isn't every that simple. The truth of the matter is that the not-easily-visible aspects of this plan harmed the poor and middle class for decades. Yes, lots of people were busy, but, no, it didn't elevate millions out of poverty and into the middle class.

This article touches the surface of some of the issues:


Reality is not described by a single variable, it is a complex multivariate problem. A program that promises more jobs is never without consequences. The details are always in the unseen variables that don't make it into political speeches or headlines. Nobody talks about them, and yet, that's where reality lies.

If you give a starving person food so that they might live, and then the number of people who depend on free food goes up, did you do a good thing? That's an ethical question with no "right" answer.

I suspect most libertarians and those who lean to the right would say "no, you saved one person but weakened the system as a whole, and thus you have created more hungry people". Whereas socialists and those who lean to the left would say "yes, because saving a human life when you can is always a good thing".

As I see it, the biggest problem in modern society is that we've stopped respecting the right for everybody to have their own view on issues like that, and instead come to believe that "the other" is so wrong that they must be corrected at all costs. I believe the Cato Institute is just as guilty of that as AOC's horde of Twitter followers.

> The poor do not elevate the poor out of poverty.

What a bizarre, paternalistic take. This is the same sort of narcissistic logic that led to Reagan's golden showers^W^W trickle-down economics.

I mean, I agree about entrepeneurs. Historically, the thing that has lifted communities out of poverty has been entrepeneurs in that community that contribute back to it. In other words, the poor very much elevate the poor out of poverty.

The rest of your comment (e.g. "and, yes, the rich") is just weird apologetics for people that don't need it, and can pay for it anyways, so why are you wasting your time doing it for free?

> What a bizarre, paternalistic take.

Really? I can understand if the truth might be offensive to you...yet that doesn't mean it isn't true or that the statement is mean-spirited or paternalistic.

Try to start a company without money and see how well it goes. I mean, you are reading this an a forum run by Y Combinator. Easy questions: In the history of humanity, how many sizeable companies were financed and launched by the poor? I think the number is pretty close to zero. In the context of the history of business, less than a rounding error.

> Historically, the thing that has lifted communities out of poverty has been entrepeneurs in that community that contribute back to it.

This is a fantasy. The best you are going to get in this scenario are a smattering of small businesses that will produce low and mid skill jobs and low wages. While it does happen, the percentage of these businesses that make it big is but a rounding error. There are examples, like the pizza joint of fast food restaurant that went national. Think places like Dominos and McDonalds. Rare, very rare, and we might even argue about who they actually elevated and where. Most local businesses remain small mom-and-pop entities incapable of elevating communities, as you put it, out of poverty. There are entire towns we can use as examples of how what you say simply does not work.

> In other words, the poor very much elevate the poor out of poverty.

No. Save very rare corner cases, the only way you elevate large numbers of people out of poverty is through massive external investments. This means people or companies with money come into a town and make very large investments that results in large numbers of jobs as well as opportunities to ascend through the ranks.

Please post a link to a business school study that explains how a 100% poor community without external investment elevated itself into the middle class. Since you say that this is "historically" the case, there ought to be thousands of such studies for you to pull from, hundreds, certainly. All I want is one.

They really do. Unions, churches, charities.

They really don't. You're misusing the word "lobby".

Churches and charities don't lobby politically for poor people, they take them on as a righteous burden to bear. Some churches and charities are even used as tax breaks for rich people.

Unions used to, to some degree. They've mostly been neutered and have very limited political capital.

That’s a “no true Scotsman” argument if ever I’ve heard one. You can’t say nobody helps the poor, then disparage the significant amount of help people do give.

I belong to a church, and the minister frequently represents vulnerable people in the local community to politicians. He’s also sponsored by the church to attend events campaigning on behalf of low-paid people in the UK. And we contribute to a fund which publishes articles and runs events to raise awareness about homelessness.

If that doesn’t count as lobbying for people then I don’t know what does. I do wish it were more effective.

It's not a "no true Scotsman" argument because "help" is a vague term to begin with.

Lots of churches say nice things while extracting maximum revenue from their congregation. Can you point to any actual political changes that have occurred as a result, or is it just some nice words?

I get the feeling I could write a long list with everything religious groups have done to help the poor - from the abolition of slavery, to Sikh Gurudwaras providing food, to groups like “Christians Against Poverty” campaigning against excessive interest on payday loans - but somehow none of that would count.

"It's everybody" just does not capture reality.

I got a tax benefit semi-recently by buying an electric car, about $7500. It was the largest I've ever gotten. Compare that to one small crumb of Trump's tax deductions that was covered by the New York Times. A $70k tax deduction for hair styling.

It's just not the same. Wealth gives you an outsized influence on politics, which lets you accumulate more wealth, at a faster rate than those poorer than you.

I don't think your perspective is accurate.

Every celebrity hires armies of people to look after them. They sell their image and likeness. Everything about their public appearance is part of their business. In this context, paying $70K for a hair stylist is not different from paying $70K for a personal trainer, beautician, tanning service, nail service, massage, etc. Their business has expenses and parameters not found in other businesses.

I pay a service to come clean our office, CNC and electronics manufacturing shop. This becomes a deduction. Trump, Bill Maher or Dua Lipa don't have that deduction. They have stuff like hair and clothing.

I have a friend who is a real estate agent. Part of his tax deduction profile includes such things as washing and detailing his car as well as some allocation for clothing. My wife is a doctor, she gets to deduct work clothing, safety equipment, seminars and other business expenses.

Yes, the tax code is a rotten mess. I agree with this 100%. I would much rather have a nominal flat tax and no deductions of any kind for anyone. Our current tax code wasn't the result of a conspiracy to benefit the rich. It's the result of decades of pushing and pulling by a bunch of different groups, each with a different objective.

Where the little guy gets screwed is that the individual has very few deductions, while businesses have tons. That's the bottom line. This has nothing to do with the rich. You can go form an LLC today --HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!-- and access deductions you could not as an individual. None of these deductions have "rich person" written on them. All you need is an LLC, which isn't that expensive or difficult to create. And all you need to be a business is to sell a few items per year on eBay (or whatever).

Simple example: I can deduct business mileage use of a vehicle when going to see clients. An individual can't deduct miles driven to and from work. I think this is wrong. Yet, again, it has nothing to do with benefiting the rich, you don't have to be rich to have access to these deductions, you just have to be on the side of the tax code that enables access to them. If you are puzzled by the possibilities, talk to a tax accountant and ask them if you would benefit from forming an LLC and, if you did, how you should use it.

if we return to the original test case, then, who is lobbying to make taxes not require turbotax?

Doing a bit of sea lioning at the beginning there buddy. Who specifically won a football game? And when? And who came up with the idea? The outcome is the result of all the actions of all the members, coaches and owners of the winning team, and of the losing team that was working against them, over the entire duration of the game. It's an emergent, complex/chaotic system. But the winning team intended to win.

You can't claim that taxation is a complex subject, yet begin by asking simplistic questions about it. Even then the concept is easy to understand, and expected rational behavior: the wealthy evade taxes because they like money and use their considerable resources to get it done. It's a fact that has thousands of years of historical precedent.[1] It's a pattern of behavior well documented in books, documentaries, and research on the subject. It's even part of the backdrop for dramas based on historical events, like the French Revolution.

It doesn't require any conspiracy, only self interest. Even then, the wealthy do have yearly economic summits where tax policy is discussed. Why would you assume it's about how to raise their own taxes instead of the opposite?

> Can you provide a year-by-year (or close enough) summary of the progression of this design and how it met your stated purpose?

There's a fairly good summary at Brookings.[2]

> I'll add my own observation to this: No, the US tax code is not designed to benefit the wealthy. It is based on incentivizing behavior through tax breaks/credits.

Yes it is. Even narrowing the focus to their personal income tax after it's loopholed through corporate tax shelters, the extremely wealthy pay have a lower tax rate than workers earning $45k.[3] Workers who make $140k pay as much into social security as the richest people on earth who also have US citizenship. What's the benefit to society having less money for shared infrastructure, and what's the benefit of rewarding people who find a way to avoid paying into that?

> And, no, what they do in (country) "m" has no bearing whatsoever on what is done or should be done in any other country

Eliminating the chance to learn from other nation's policy mistakes and successes is a terrible idea.

[1] https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/when-governments-can...

[2] https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/funding-our-nations-pr...

[3] https://www.propublica.org/article/you-may-be-paying-a-highe...

> You can't claim that taxation is a complex subject, yet begin by asking simplistic questions about it.

Are you the only one identifying some of the sarcasm in my post? Good.

The idea of the tax code being "designed to benefit the rich" is beyond ridiculous. This is as ridiculous as me asking a simplistic question about the origins of any part of of the rotten stinking mess this tax code has become.

I'd much rather have a flat tax system with no deductions at all for anyone.

I would also propose that taxing businesses is wrong. Why? Because you tax the employees of the business already. Taxing the business stinks of double taxation and removes capital that could be used for growth and to create more jobs over time.

Think of it this way. Let's say ten people as a group product furniture and sell it. They make money and pay themselves salaries. They also pay taxes. However, let's pretend they can do this without forming a legal entity we call a business. The just do the work, pool the money, pay themselves salaries, pay expenses, pay taxes and life goes on.

Now we come along and say: Wait a minute! You are working together to make tables. Because of that, we are going to take another 30% in taxes out of all of you. It isn't enough that each of you pay 30% in taxes, we want 30% from what remains.

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Well, it is. At least I think so. Could be wrong.

I agree that Intuit has done some shady things with tax lobbying, but it's naive to credit them for the ridiculous state of the tax code. There are plenty of other cooks with far more sway stirring that pot.

This is a really good point. Intuit profits off the complex tax laws, but the real beneficiaries are the wealthy. Any proposal to significantly simplify the tax laws are gonna be met with huge resistance from the rich and powerful, primarily because their taxes will certainly increase. Bezos isn't gonna allow his taxes to increase just so the rest of us can have a simplified tax code.

Not just the wealthy or tax companies. https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/03/709656642/epis... is a good episode explaining some of the behind the scenes on our messy tax situation.

This is not really true. Intuit et al. make money from pretty simple tax laws that apply to most people, who use their consumer-grade prep software. The idea was the government could prefill your taxes and for this huge segment of the population that would be it; the rich or complicated returns could still be filed by accountants and specialized software. Intuit makes a huge amount of money off these relatively simple returns though, so instead lobbied to provide "free" tax software to the same target segment. It turns out their free software is anything but and they used it as a marketing ploy to funnel poorer people to paid versions. Having the IRS predefine your taxes would be far more efficient and wouldn't cost rich people any more. The tax code is complicated because of it's scale and interactions; neither impacts most of these basic returns.

Similarly big companies benefit from complex regulatory regimes that their staff attorneys can easily handle but startups can’t.

Many people can't even figure out easily what to fill into the boxes, even with software.

"Government: You owe us money. It’s called taxes.

Me: How much do I owe?

Gov’t: You have to figure that out.

Me: I just pay what I want?

Gov’t: Oh, no we know exactly how much you owe. But you have to guess that number too.

Me: What if I get it wrong?

Gov’t: You go to prison"


You have to be pretty obviously flouting tax law to have it become a criminal case.

Apart from that, IRS workers are just like workers at any other job where throughput is a primary metric: They just want to close cases quickly with a resolution. That may mean penalties and interest rate if you screwed up or were actually trying to avoid what you owe. They're not taking you to court and prosecuting for $100k if you're working with them to fix things though. In the end, they don't much care if the settlement takes 10 years to pay off $200/month at a time as long as they can close the case as resolved.

Source: 1) I have a friend who was an IRS lawyer and then a tax attorney. 2) I know someone who went bankrupt and came to long term multi-year agreement to pay $50/month.

up to the prison part, it is largely accurate. The punishment is just more likely to be penalties and expensive audits.

My wife is currently facing a fine because she had some extra income in 2020 that the local IRS don't understand. Not that it's illegal, shady or remotely fraudulent: they just don't understand how could she earn some small money (around $500) doing X when she mainly does Y.

The "solution" they deem as legal is to create a whole new bussiness dedicated to do X, or refuse to do it. And to my eyes X and Y are related (like doing a security audit to a web and building a web), but IRS don't think so.

There's another form you can fill out for extra income... I don't know your situation but it's likely you didn't fill out that form but someone on the other side of that transaction did.

If it's basically pass-through income from a business then you fill out (in the US) a Schedule C. And you do one for each business like that. And you also have to separately fill out the medicare & social security taxes, paying both the employer and employee side of it.

It sounds complicated, but paying about $100 for the TurboTax edition that handles small businesses will make it fairly easy. Yep, they've got strong regulatory capture in this space, but business income isn't always straight forward so I would consider ~$100 well worth it. Though I'm sure that some dead-simple home businesses really wouldn't need it.

The fear people have about going to jail over taxes is not really supported by the statistics. It turns out people who work for the IRS aren't stupid and recognize it's hard to pay taxes from jail. Most people who get nailed that way knew exactly what they were doing.

PDF: https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-pu...

That vignette is meant to be sardonic, not realistic. The point is that the government absolutely could just file your taxes for you and send you a check or a bill, if they weren't lobbied by tax prep companies like Intuit and extremists like Grover Norquist.

That's a popular view, but only true for people who don't have any deductions, depreciations, business expenses, mileage, etc. For a large group of people, the IRS can run the math only after you submit the full list of inputs.

In sane countries, the "popular view" holds, as it should. Not so much in the US, though. The IRS knows how much I make, I want them to send me a form that says "we think you made this much, if that's true and you have no fancy deductions, sign here".

Then I just sign a form and return it instead of slogging through the bullshit that Intuit et al has lobbied for.

This doesn’t preclude the government pre-filling and giving you the option to amend. It would save everyone time, even the people who amend because some information would already be pre-filled.

You could always apply to a refund based on that information. But the government already has 99% of what is needed to file your taxes, they are just not allowed by the lobby of tax preparation.

It's a reductio ad absurdam joke

Ef the gouvernement! I know! not very constructive, but the topic is too depressive for any constructivability

It would be more than likely they lobbied to KEEP tax laws complicated and fight any changes to simplify filing. They were complicated decades before intuit ever showed up on the scene.

Edit: I'm being downvoted for THIS particular comment? lol is intuit monitoring this thread or something?

They've been at it for decades, so it's probably going to be hard to figure out how much they're responsible for. We've got a Tax Code of Theseus paradox. How much do they have to change it before they're responsible for the avalanche that follows?

Compare to, for example, Twitter and Facebook. All they did was amp up grievances that already existed, some centuries old. No one can agree on how much fault they deserve for the consequences even if it's clear they played a huge role in the current state of things.

I think much of Intuit’s “regulatory capture” is on TurboTax, and it’s offering for small businesses (Quickbooks) is actually a very competitive marketplace with other actors such as Square, PayPal, Wix, and Stripe actively expanding into each other’s markets.

In the next decade there will be market capture for one or two companies of the entire sub 50 employee retail business market segment. Everything from food trucks to floral shops will have one monthly subscription that covers pos system, employee scheduling/payroll, invoicing, tax, and much more in a platform of tools that resembles AWS or Azure. This is clearly Quickbooks expanding into fulfilling marketing needs for their clients.

Keep in mind it’s competitive in two ways. If businesses running Square have a competitive advantage because of tooling compared to businesses running Quickbooks than Quickbooks will suffer more churn and lose in the long run to Square.

http://Pilot.com (no affiliation but I've worked with some of the people there) is directly trying to compete with QuickBooks on QuickBooks playing field. Problem is, QuickBooks is the standard in the industry, like Adove Photoshop or Microsoft Windows in the 1990's. Square has the advantage that they already have the data, but then they don't have the same incentives to compete on bookkeeper tools.

It's important, though, to understand exactly what that "regulatory capture" entails. See https://www.propublica.org/article/inside-turbotax-20-year-f... :

> Internal presentations lay out company tactics for fighting “encroachment,” Intuit’s catchall term for any government initiative to make filing taxes easier — such as creating a free government filing system or pre-filling people’s returns with payroll or other data the IRS already has. “For a decade proposals have sought to create IRS tax software or a ReturnFree Tax System; All were stopped,” reads a confidential 2007 PowerPoint presentation from an Intuit board of directors meeting. The company’s 2014-15 plan included manufacturing “3rd-party grass roots” support. “Buy ads for op-eds/editorials/stories in African American and Latino media,” one internal PowerPoint slide states [ https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6483061-Intuit-Turbo... ]... Based on publicly available data and statements by Intuit executives, ProPublica estimates that roughly 15 million paying TurboTax customers could have filed for free if they found Free File. That represents more than $1.5 billion in estimated revenue, or more than half the total that TurboTax generates. Those affected include retirees, students, people on disability and minimum-wage workers.

Note as well that Intuit recently acquired Credit Karma for $8.1 billion - a company whose business model relies on granularly predicting what financial products will be most profitable when offered to consumers.

At the end of the day, it's often impossible to avoid using Intuit's B2B solutions like QuickBooks - as others have noted, they're an industry standard. But in the packed market of email service providers, is this the company who will set the most robust ethical boundaries on how to use a treasure trove of highly-actionable PII and purchasing data? Do we want to contribute to feeding our customers' data to such a company? That's a choice that those of us choosing ESP solutions should make with eyes wide open.

Ahh, that's where I've heard of them: QuickBooks.

And Mint

Afaik, they bought Mint.

In 2009

Having worked at a company that was acquired by Intuit, they gave fairly substantial retention bonuses that vested over the 3 years following the acquisition that ended up being about 4x the value of my original pre-acquisition stock options, though the retention bonuses varied greatly and not everyone got that much. So I’d expect that Intuit is taking care of the employees that are considered key to Mailchimp’s business.

Softening the shock to Mailchimp employees with money would work to some degree. But if they kill the culture then it won't help in the long run.

They don't need them to stick around for the long run, only for now. This game has been played over and over through the decades.

I hope for intuit's sake they don't forget the fat bonus. It's an amazing place to work and I'm happy to have helped make Ben and Dan rich, but no skin in the game works both ways. I had no hesitation leaving, same with a few others I know that moved on.

Intuit gets a bad rap now and with good reason. But I read their book detailing their startup history about twenty years ago, it was quite interesting. Was as scrappy as any story you've heard here. Had to get out of Microsoft's way also, if memory serves.

Why is everyone complaining about taxes being regulatory capture when email is becoming also becoming a monopoly?

It is literally impossible to start up your own email server now and have it accepted by major email hosts like microsoft and gmail now without your emails ending up in spam or even worse, completely dropped.

People should be asking why email is so broken that companies like mailchimp exist and is being bought for billions.

> It is literally impossible to start up your own email server now and have it accepted by major email hosts like microsoft and gmail now without your emails ending up in spam or even worse, completely dropped.

I am 100% ignorant on the subject. If you have a moment can you provide the 30k foot view of what has changed to make this the case?

codexon did a pretty good job but it's little more: the three main consumer email providers/hosters (google, microsoft, and yahoo/aol) don't have a great way to fight spam so use IP reputation, what this means is that if the IP address that you use to host your email server doesn't have a good reputation they will silently drop emails you send to their users and neither the recipients nor the senders (you) will ever know.

Only real way around this is to instead host your email server with them, aka Office365 or gWorkspace. This basically breaks the federated aspect of email and turns it into a siloed SaaS offering from two of the big cloud providers. AWS can also be used to send newsletters but doesn't really do consumer email hosting (they don't have a good client), and you're still tied to a SaaS cloud provider.

The view is that most emails are becoming centralized to come from a few places. So email hosts like microsoft and google take shortcuts to stop spam by untrusting any IP they haven't seen sending emails for 5 years (this is just a random number, no one knows what the real filters are).

I work in a company that sends millions of emails every month through our own server. We moved to new IPs last year and didn't see a big disruption. The key is having a high quality list and only ever sending things that people actually asked you to send.

I'm not sure if anything has changed in the last two years after is stopped self hosting email but I ran my own server for 6 years and never had any issues with ending up in spam.

If you ran an email server 8 years ago your ip would have accrued enough reputation to bypass filters. It also seems to depend on how much email you send.

Downvote me, I don't care, but I'm just replying to this in the hope that it gets highlighted even more than a simple upvote.

You bring up a good point. It's be really nice to see how much of an overlap there is between MailChimp and Intuit users.

Thanks, I wasn't previously aware of these reports.

> become so successful without VC funding

Does HN live in a bubble because of ycombinator where they think it's unusual for companies to be able to self start?

It is very unusual for bootstrapped companies to hit a billion+ valuation.

It is very unusual for 'tech' companies founded since 2008, but Mailchimp was a web design company founded in 2001 that stumbled upon a capital-efficient business model before they needed to raise capital.

The 'unusual' part is more that a company this old and profitable has a traditional 'exit' vs. being run as a cashflow generator for the duration of the founders' lives.

This is an important distinction. Companies that never take VC money and generate profits can run indefinitely without having an exit event. If I had a steady profit stream from a company, I wouldn't necessarily want to sell.

Why do companies have to reach a billion in profit for it to be considered a tech company to you? This is the bubble.

> employees don't have equity

Is there any more detail on that? I'm not sure why they wouldn't.

We do this at my company - I think maybe we do better …

I had Intuit as a client. In the consulting I do I hear gripes fairly quickly.

The only gripes I heard were not really gripes just an expression of the challenge of grappling with the legacy of TurboTax. The team seemed intent on finding new ways to manage the complexity and they seemed very open to new tech.

Everyone seemed happy to be working there. The few managers i interacted with seemed to really care about their teams. The most surprising thing I experienced was how grateful some were that they weren’t working at Hooli across the street in Mountain View. I didn’t understand this sentiment till I wandered over to Hooli’s campus. Everyone there seemed as depressed as the folks on a particular insurance campus in Lansing Michigan I visited. Not scientific, just sharing my lived exp.

exactly how I feel about this too

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