September 20, 2021

Accounting News Roundup: Return-Free Filing and Swingers | 04.14.16

Return-free filing

We discussed boycotting TurboTax a few weeks back and most people agree that it's not a feasible idea. Like it or not, TurboTax and other similar products are convenient for most people and affordable enough. Plus, the free filing options available are not widely marketed and still require taxpayers to assemble all their firms and prepare the return themselves.

The argument for boycotting is a novel one — most people shouldn't have to plunk $150+ down to file a very simple return and many other countries have developed return-free filing that the majority of taxpayers can use. However, companies like Intuit and H&R Block spend millions lobbying against any improvement in the system. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a tax organizer lobby out there, too.

This debate comes up every year around this time and like most things in our government, people kvetch and then move on to the next thing. This year, however, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has introduced the Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2016 and it would:

[D]irect the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to develop a free, online tax preparation and filing service that taxpayers can use to prepare and file their taxes directly with the federal government, if they choose to do so, and would prohibit the IRS from entering into agreements that restrict its ability to provide free online tax preparation or filing services. The Act would give all taxpayers the right to download third-party-reported tax information that the IRS already has, and would provide those with simple tax situations with a return-free option.

"Congress should be making it easier for Americans to file their taxes each year, not bowing to the interests of the tax prep industry," Senator Warren said. Vox's Dylan Matthews loves it, writing:

Currently, the IRS collaborates with tax software providers (mainly Intuit, which sells TurboTax) on what's called the Free File program. The program is supposed to provide free access to commercial software for low- and medium-income taxpayers. But because the eligibility rules are so complicated and the system is so poorly advertised, only 3 percent of taxpayers use it, and the National Taxpayer Advocate has repeatedly called for the program's abolition.

Warren's bill would kill the corrupt, feckless Free File program for good. But it goes further than that. Best of all, it establishes a new "return-free" filing option that would send millions of Americans with simple tax situations a pre-prepared tax return, which they can submit unchanged if they like.

And, yes, for anyone who thinks that return-free filing is a good idea, this is music to your ears. Unfortunately, GovTrack says it has a 0% percent chance of passing and among the factors is: "The bill's title starts with 'A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of.'" Rest easy, TurboTax.

Parental leave

Yesterday we learned about EY's new parental leave policy, allowing new parents to take 16 weeks paid leave. Fortune took note of EY's claim to be the first to equalize its policy for men and women among its competitors:

[I]t’s rare for companies to explicitly call themselves out as the sector leader in parental benefits, all but daring their competitors to match or best their policies. If EY’s shot across its competitors’ bows helps spark a benefit arms race, working moms and dads will be the victors.

EY's claim does check out — Accenture comes closest to matching them with 16 weeks for birth mothers, 8 weeks for all other caregivers. The rest of the firms (i.e. Big 4, IBM) all offer some parental leave, but whether this results in an arms race of sorts remains to be seen.

Swingers

I don't know much about the rules for swingers clubs or events but I imagine they're pretty no-nonsense. That is, if anything is out of order, you can expect to denied admittance strongly. An accountant in the UK — who does not appear to have aged well — learned this the hard way:

Roy Maggs, 49, travelled to the Swingfields event looking forward to three days of encounters with strangers.

Mr Maggs paid £127.85 for a ticket, but when he arrived he was told he could not get in after he failed to provide character references.

He had not read the small print that stated single men who wished to attend needed two references from fellow swingers.

Mr Maggs, from Plymouth, Devon, was told he should have uploaded the references and a photo online before he arrived.

As I mentioned, it's possible that this Maggs fella didn't upload a picture because no one would believe that he's 49. But more importantly, I don't have any sympathy for an accountant who doesn't read the fine print, especially for a swingers event. This guy then spent 8 months trying to get a refund, even suing the organizers. He lost the case but has been promised him entry to this year's event now he's provided some references. 

Previously, on Going Concern…

Leona May interviewed an accounting graduate that went straight into law school. Any CPAs thinking about law school will enjoy it. Or be scared witless.

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