A bill making its way through Congress would permanently stop the United States government from offering free online tax filing, codifying the current system that relies on private services.
ProPublica reported today that the bill, called the Taxpayer First Act, would enshrine the current tax system in law, preventing the IRS from offering a competing service to private online filing offerings like TurboTax. The bill, which has received bipartisan support, passed through a House of Representatives committee last week.
The news comes ahead of Tax Day, which is on Monday, April 15th. As the bill makes its way through the House, a companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate.
For years, the US tax system has been criticized by experts for not offering a simple, government-run option for filing taxes online. The IRS could vastly simplify the process by essentially filling out the tax forms of many Americans, then sending along the refund. But in the face of intense lobbying from the private tax service industry, those efforts have largely wilted.
As ProPublica notes, the current system operates under an agreement between the IRS and the private tax service industry, in which the latter agrees to offer some free services. The bill, which includes other changes to the IRS, would make this system permanent. “This provision codifies the existing Free File program and requires the IRS to continue to work with private stakeholders to maintain, improve, and expand the program,” lawmakers said in a statement on the bill.