Why can’t we make taxes easier?

I was listening to a podcast the other day that highlights two things about people that really bother me. The podcast was American, from National Public Radio (NPR), and talked about a project in California to make the tax return process simpler. The project took advantage of the fact that the government already knows most of your tax-related activity and can just send you a completed tax return. You can make any necessary additions and then send it back. An analogy was made to a credit card bill: the credit card company doesn’t expect you to complete a form letting them know about your transactions, they just send you the bill—the government can do the same thing.

While the taxpayers in the pilot program thought it was terrific, unsurprisingly the tax software companies didn’t. Complicated tax returns that are the responsibility of the taxpayer make tax preparation software almost a necessity, for which the companies make billions of dollars each year.

This is the first thing that bothers me. Like the old story of buggy whip makers being put out of business, the world moves on and sometimes your business has to adapt. It makes me really angry when I see companies and industries lobbying governments to make it possible for them to stay in business, and sometimes illegal for them to go out of business. If your business is necessary, people will continue to use it and you’ll continue to make money; if it’s not, figure out something new. It’s not government’s responsibility to prop up failing businesses.

The second thing that was mentioned is that there’s some powerful Republican who has decided that simplifying taxes is akin to raising them, and Republicans are against anything that will raise taxes. But how does simplifying tax returns raise taxes? Because once no one’s paying as much attention to the tax return, the government can sneakily slip in extra taxes and people will pay them without noticing. This necessarily assumes the government will be deceitful with its taxpayers. To me, this is the kind of bad acting that people envision only because they would do it themselves. Just because you’d be an asshole, doesn’t mean everyone will be an asshole. And especially in the case of government and taxation, there are already policies and procedures in place to get people to pay the right taxes and refund them when they pay too much.

Further, because current Republicans don’t like taxes, they want to make the process difficult so no one likes taxes. If you’re trying to make America great “again”, the time it was great was when people, especially rich people, paid a ton of taxes.