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Viewpoint: Don’t make Tax Day harder for women, working moms

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Tax season is a difficult and stressful time for all Americans, but it can be make or break for hard-working women and single mothers who depend on tax credits and deductions to put food on the table and pay critical bills. Tax Day 2024 may be a year away, but politicians in Washington D.C. are already working to make it even harder, debating giving the IRS the power to function as tax preparer and tax enforcer. This would fundamentally upend our tax collection system and make it tougher on families across Delaware.

Rep. Ruth Briggs King Delaware

Rep. Ruth Briggs King | PHOTO COURTESY STATE OF DE

A recent study from the Tax Policy Center found that the IRS would struggle to determine which low- and moderate-income families would qualify for the earned income tax credit and child tax credits. The agency doesn’t have the same information that taxpayers themselves do. Similarly, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) predicted that the IRS could only generate accurate returns for less than 50% of taxpayers.

As a result, working parents and those who have the least amount of time and resources to spare would have to take time out of their busy lives to contact the IRS and get the agency to fix their mistakes. In 2021, the IRS answered just 2% of the 70 million calls to the agency’s help line. Single parents have much more pressing things to do with their time, namely raising their children, and shouldn’t have to wait on hold to correct the government’s mistakes.

An IRS-run tax preparation system would result in taxpayers paying more every year. The IRS is currently charged with maximizing revenue for the federal government. The same agency also cannot be expected to have the taxpayer’s financial interest at heart.

Our local state politics is known as the Delaware Way. Even though I’m a Republican, I pride myself on working across the aisle to find common ground with my Democratic colleagues to make progress that benefits our constituents. That is why I hope Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) will reconsider his recent support for an IRS-run system.

An IRS-run tax preparation system would add more than $20 billion to the deficit and likely cost more than Healthcare.gov, all to unnecessarily fill a role that private sector tax services already fulfill. Additionally, Delaware already offers free tax preparation programs that have been helping low-income filers for years.

What’s more, the IRS itself has said that the agency does not want this unprecedented new authority and responsibility. Former IRS commissioners from both political parties have also said that implementing such a system would be “unwise” and that the agency should focus on much more pressing matters including improving customer service, reducing the unprecedented backlogs of tax returns, and modernizing the agency’s decades old computers systems. Even President Obama’s former Chief Information Officer warned that, “an effort to have the IRS offer pre-prepared tax returns would be operationally impractical, prohibitively expensive, legally questionable, and would likely fail to deliver on the promised benefits.”

Despite the overwhelming bipartisan opposition to this proposal from experts, the Treasury Department will soon release a study that will likely recommend the IRS begin preparing and filing tax returns. The reason: the Treasury Department hired a think tank and a scholar who both have publicly supported such a program for years. This represents an inherent and problematic conflict of interest that should be fully investigated.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that an independent study from MITRE found the public was extremely skeptical of the IRS calculating their taxes, “The findings: A mere 37% of tax filers with simple returns would use an IRS tax preparation service. The number drops to 29% if the system doesn’t include a similar state tax-prep function. Among the nearly 50% of respondents who say they want to stick with their current commercial software, among their reasons was, ‘I don’t think it’s the IRS’s role to prepare taxes.’”

We live in a republic where our elected representatives in Congress – not unelected bureaucrats at the Treasury Department and the IRS – should decide how Americans file their taxes. I urge Sen. Carper to reconsider his support for a misguided, unnecessary, and prohibitively expensive IRS-run tax preparation system that would only make Tax Day more difficult for hard-working women and single mothers.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown) has represented her southern Delaware district since 2009 and is a nonprofit consultant.

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