Published time: April 15, 2014 03:34
Edited time: April 15, 2014 04:58

Reuters / Shannon StapletonReuters / Shannon Stapleton

A software company that promises to help Americans avoid the annual misery of filing their IRS returns has, in fact, spent years trying to convince lawmakers to make sure filing taxes remains difficult, thus protecting its business, a new report found.

Every year Americans spend an estimated $2 billion and 225 million hours preparing their tax returns by April 15. The process can include obtaining information from a bank or employer, intensive financial disclosures, and, for many Americans, an appointment with a professional accountant who is qualified to evaluate how much money the state and federal government is due.

The annual drudgery could be avoided with “return free-filing.” The process would involve an Americans’ employer and bank sending information to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the government sending a bill to an individual, and that person essentially returning their payment in mere minutes, free of charge.

Denmark, Sweden, and Spain already rely on pre-filed returns, and the US couldas well if it were not for Intuit Inc. The owner of Turbo Tax, Intuit has spent at least $11.5 million on a federal lobbying effort over five years (spending more than Amazon or Apple) in an attempt to make sure the way Americans pay their taxes doesn’t change. The ploy was first unveiled by a ProPublica investigation last year, although reporters found that Intuit used the same tricks through spring of this year.

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