Letter: Disappointed by Neal on free tax preparation issue


To the editor:

I join many residents of Rep. Richard Neal's congressional district in applauding his actions requesting release of President Trump's tax returns. After all, all presidents previously had released their taxes, and there is no law restricting release due to any IRS audit. So Rep. Neal was doing his job as expected. Great!

But I now ask whether he is now doing service to his constituents on our own tax issues. As head of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Neal passed the Taxpayer First Act that is quietly making changes in how the IRS works. Significantly, one such provision now makes it illegal for the IRS to create an free online system for taxpayers to do their own taxes. Much of the information on this free IRS program would have been pre-entered from 990s and other forms the IRS already has. In line with the simplification of the new tax bill, doing this annual spring tax-filing event would have become both simpler and cheaper.

But in the Taxpayer First Act, the IRS would not be required to develop such a free tool for taxpayers, while the tax preparer companies' already existing free tax programs for people with income under $66,000 would be expanded. Currently this free option is used by just 3% of eligible taxpayers. Some argue it is not promoted by tax return-preparing companies.

According to ProPublica's excellent reporting, not surprisingly, the tax returning-preparing companies such as Inuit (TurboTax) and H&R Block have vigorously fought the IRS free option, citing that it would undermine their profitability. Blocking this was backed by $6.6 million in lobbying against the option, as well as other IRS issues. And Rep. Neal received $16,000 from Inuit and H&R Block over past two election cycles.

It's easy to support Rep. Neal asking for President Trump's tax returns, as it is backed by tradition and law. Blocking constituents' access to a free tax return-preparation program by the IRS is not acceptable from our representative. I would expect more from someone whom I have long supported.

Michael Bedford,

North Adams



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