Stanford Professor Loses Political Battle To Simplify Tax Filing Process


Publish Date:
March 29, 2017
  • Vanek Smith, Stacey
National Public Radio (NPR) - All Things Considered
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A tax law professor tries to change the way we pay our taxes, so it is easy and painless. His system has been tested and it works. But when he tried to convince California to adopt it, he had to square off with well-funded lobbyists and political power brokers.


This year, Americans will collectively spend billions of dollars and many hours filing tax returns. Turns out, it does not have to be this hard. Stacey Vanek Smith from our Planet Money podcast brings us the story of one man’s quest to simplify the system.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, BYLINE: Joseph Bankman is a tax law professor at Stanford. And he says paying taxes in the U.S. is way more complicated than it should be. He says in other countries, paying taxes is much easier. But here?

JOSEPH BANKMAN: Our filing system is the worst.

SMITH: Like objectively?

BANKMAN: Yeah, objectively.

SMITH: Back in 2004, Joe tried to change this. He and some people from the state of California put together a pilot program to improve taxes. They rolled it out to about 11,000 taxpayers. And it was based on this very simple idea.

BANKMAN: Why don’t we start off giving them a tax return that’s already filled out with the income we know they have and then they can make corrections on it?

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