Quest For Easier, Cheaper Online Tax Tools Continues


Publish Date:
April 10, 2017
  • Evangelista, Benny
San Francisco Chronicle
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This year, millions of confused taxpayers will either consult a human tax preparer at firms like H&R Block or use software such as TurboTax. And that duopoly isn’t likely to change anytime soon, some experts say.

But in an age when transferring money is as simple as launching an app, Stanford tax law expert Joseph Bankman believes technology could make income tax filing far easier.

“If someone like Google ran the tax system, we would have it overnight,” Bankman said.

“Our present system is so stupid, particular in an information age where data is easily shared,” said Bankman, a professor of law and business at Stanford Law School.

Bankman said a simpler tax code could help eliminate the annual mid-April scramble; that could include, for example, a value-added tax.

“We’re one of the only countries that has such a complicated tax system,” Bankman said. “Intuit has built a business around a dysfunctional filing system. If we had a good filing system, we wouldn’t need to spend so much money.”

“All filing would mean is checking over the data, maybe adding one or two pieces of data that only you knew and hitting send,” Bankman said. “If all of that stuff automatically were in the right boxes in your tax returns, the only thing you would add is your charitable contributions. The government would have everything else.”

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