The other government mandate

April 1, 2010

Forget about being forced to buy health insurance. Aren’ t Americans pretty much forced  by our complex tax code to buy tax prep software or see an accountant? That is a mandate, too, notes Howard Gleckman of TaxVox:

The government does not specifically require us to hire paid tax preparers or buy commercial software, of course. But it has, in effect, left millions of taxpayers with no real choice. Congress has created a tax code that makes it nearly impossible for many Americans to file returns without paid help. And even those who could … are so intimidated by the whole process that they pay people to help them anyway.

Thus, in 2005, 89 percent of individual taxpayers either used commercial software or hired paid preparers to help them do their civic duty. Just 11 percent, according to my colleague Eric Toder, filed returns on their own.

Yet, we just shrug and pay our $59 for commercial software or pony up between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars to paid preparers. No constitutional challenges. No state attorneys general at the barricades. Many of us, in fact, are likely to spend more money hiring a human being to do our taxes than we’ll pay in penalties for refusing to buy insurance ($95 in 2014 increasing to $695 by 2016). Indeed, I’m willing to bet that more of us will pay somebody to prepare a tax return than will purchase medical coverage, despite the insurance mandate.

One comment

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People pay $95+ for tax software? The program I use is $30, and I only use it because my dad buys it.

Unless you’re itemizing, the form isn’t that difficult. The biggest operation it asks is addition and subtraction.