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Government Software The Almighty Buck Politics

Intuit Still Fighting Government Tax Software 374

Back in January we discussed Intuit's opposition to California's free, convenient software to file tax returns. TechDirt noticed a recent article in the LA Times about Intuit's continued lobbying efforts to get rid of those programs. Quoting: "Most importantly, Intuit is offering nothing that California doesn't already have. The state has arranged with other tax software providers to do exactly what Intuit proposes: Help low-income folks fill in and file state and federal returns for free — although Intuit refuses to participate. It apparently only wants in on this deal if the state knocks out its free programs, thereby creating a larger potential paying customer base for TurboTax. Not surprisingly, Intuit has been greasing the wheels in order to try to sell its scheme in California. Since 2005, public filings indicate that Intuit has spent $1.25 million on lobbyists in the state. Over the same period, it contributed an additional $2.12 million to statewide campaigns, including more than $1 million to state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks), a ReadyReturn foe who is running for state controller. In all, Intuit has doled out cash to nearly 120 politicians. The impact has been clear, even if Intuit hasn't gotten its way — yet. As documented in The Times, in 2009 California Republican legislators held back their votes on 20 bills in an attempt to do the corporation's bidding and force the abolition of ReadyReturn and CalFile. They didn't succeed in killing the tax programs, but they did kill funding for domestic violence shelters, police and fire departments, and prevention of swine flu outbreaks."
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Intuit Still Fighting Government Tax Software

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  • by OhHellWithIt ( 756826 ) * on Monday August 02, 2010 @03:47PM (#33114562) Journal

    Virginia used to have a web-based filing program, iFile. After successfully running the program for four or five years, the legislature voted to do away with it this year, even though I'm sure it had paid for itself and was generating significant cost savings for the state. The sad part to me is that most Virginians seemed to have been unaware of it, as I haven't found anyone else who is even remotely bothered by it. They already pay for Tax Cut or something like that. <sigh>

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @03:52PM (#33114622)

    Virginia used to have a web-based filing program, iFile. After successfully running the program for four or five years, the legislature voted to do away with it this year, even though I'm sure it had paid for itself and was generating significant cost savings for the state.

    That wasn't Intuit's fault, that was Apple suing for infringement of their trademark on the letter "i".

    Pssst! You wanna buy the letter I?

  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:12PM (#33114904)
    Actually, that is illegal. Under reporting your withholdings can get you into trouble since you are required to be paying your income tax gradually during the year.
  • The biggest problem (Score:3, Informative)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:18PM (#33115032) Journal
    A lot of people hate big corporations and 'the man' for rather mindless reasons, and others blame 'big government,' but their understanding isn't nuanced enough to see the real problem.

    The real problem is when corporations get special favors from the government. A large, evil corporation will be limited by market forces and legality (it's illegal to kill, illegal to ruin the environment, etc), but when a company gets special favors from the government it distorts market forces and can get around the force of legality. This happens all the time, and its why companies lobby in the first place. Right now it is easy to get put on a board if a company if you have strong 'political connections,' but if politicians didn't bow to this pressure, that wouldn't happen because those connections would be worthless.

    Intuit is just the most vocal right now. Another case in California was portable building manufacturers lobbying to make a law that schools need to buy (ugly) portable buildings. Another case was some internet dating company whose entire business model was based on doing background checks for people dating online lobbying to make background checks required by law. Fortunately that one failed.

    Fannie May and Freddie Mac are other examples of when this goes wrong. They are private companies whose risk is taken by the public. There is nothing wrong with the goal of helping poor people get houses, but that isn't what Fannie and Freddie have been doing primarily. Banks of course do their lobbying. And lawyers are among the worst: Attorney Generals have their pay-to-play schemes [] set up all over the country.

    Because of how this distorts the market, if it all got cleaned up, it would easily add 5% to the GDP. The rent-seekers would suffer a bit, but let them go do something productive.
  • by NukeDoggie ( 943265 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:22PM (#33115076)
    Yes the iFile saved the state of virginia millions of dollars. The removal of it will increase paper filing tremendously. They bribed(lobbied) our officials completely to remove it. It was fast free and easy, and it's gone now. There was only discussion by our local rag after the law was passed almost unanimously. Another example of corporate greed raiding the coffers in the name of "Helping" the poor...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:24PM (#33115096)

    Nonsense. It gives everybody enough money to pay the taxes on the stuff they need. Poor people end up paying a lower percentage of their income in taxes, because this money offsets the taxes they do pay on the lower amount they spend. []

    There are plenty of things to criticize in the plan, but this is not one of them.

  • Re:Huh?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:29PM (#33115164)

    Corporations are first class citizens in America because it is a violation of human free speech rights for non-humans to have limited ability to bribe..., I mean donate to the campaign of, politicians.

    Corporations can't donate to political campaigns but why let the truth get in the way of your talking points?

    Don't let checking the facts of your statements get in the way of what you think is the truth. Its ok, sometimes I do that myself.

  • Re:Huh?! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:34PM (#33115258) Journal

    Citizens United said that corporations can take part in the political process. It did not say that they can donate money to political campaigns. They can print fliers, buy TV/radio advertisements, take out newspaper ads, etc. They can't write a check to "Obama for America"

    I know it's hard for you to understand, but there is a difference between being able to say "Barack Obama kicks puppies" and writing a check to Barack Obama's opponent......

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:42PM (#33115374)

    Have you actually READ the FairTax languange? You might want to start at

    FairTax is a truly FAIR system. YOU, the taxpayer, control both HOW MUCH tax you pay and WHEN you pay it.

    The prebate that included takes care of argument about taxing food and essential services up to the poverty line (wherever that gets set at). The argument about the "percentage of disposable income"...

    1) The overall percentage of income paid would go DOWN dramatically for the majority -- and EVERYONE pays. No more "hidden" economy or untaxed areas. The drug dealer who buys the $80K Escalade would actually contribute to the tax base for a change.

    2) Those buying more expensive items would pay MORE. A person buying a $15K vehicle would pay far LESS tax then someone buying a $80K vehicle. And someone buying a USED vehicle would pay a whopping $0 in tax!

    3) The removal of all of the payroll taxes, etc. would mean people would be getting ALL of their income. THEY get to decide what to purchase -- they can buy used and save the tax completely.

    4) There are NO deductions. period. It is a 100% consumption-based system -- saying anything else means its NOT the FairTax.

    I agree that the lobbyist and others "invested" in the current tax code will do their best to kill it -- and the government certainly will fight to keep their hidden social-engineering and pandering system alive. Your disinformation and libel are just helping them along.

  • Re:Huh?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by ckaminski ( 82854 ) <slashdot-nospam@ ... om minus physici> on Monday August 02, 2010 @04:45PM (#33115432) Homepage
    Actually, they can. They are limited however, just as every other American is.

    However, they CAN spend money on their candidates behalf, without contributing directly to a campaign.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @05:01PM (#33115708)

    Ah, I was not aware of the quarterly option. Can you do that to federal also?

    Yes and no.

    In the sense that OP most likely meant, [] explains what's involved in sending quarterly tax payments (whooo! do your taxes 4 times a year instead of 1!) and you could always submit a W-4 to your employer asking them not to withhold taxes for the IRS, BUT 'No' in the sense that [] notes that your W-4 withholding request is "subject to review by the IRS."

    So if you would owe any taxes for the year (whether or not you sent the money quarterly) then the IRS is eventually going to tell your employer to withhold taxes from you no matter what your W-4 said. And sometimes the IRS will do that even if you will not be earning enough money to owe any taxes for the year. (they did that to me when I was only working during the summer between semesters)

  • Re:The real WTF (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @05:06PM (#33115784) Journal

    I.e., what was "killing the tax program" doing in bills funding "domestic violence shelters, police and fire departments, and prevention of swine flu outbreaks"?

    Neither you not the GP understood what TFA was saying.
    The Rs held 20 bills hostage in an attempt to force Dems to kill ReadyReturn and CalFile.
    Democrats said "fuck you," so California Republicans killed the hostages.

    Since Obama & the Dems rolled into office, Republicans have been doing a lot of hostage taking on both the local and national level.

  • Re:Huh?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @05:18PM (#33115968) Journal
    Ok, I'll respond without insulting you, since apparently a moderator decided I was trolling -- and it's important that people know the truth.

    Its even worse than that.. Our government is the only organization I have ever heard of that refuses to tell you how much you owe!

    This is a falsehood. The IRS will calculate your taxes for you, you just need to provide the necessary data (since they don't collect it as a matter of course).

    If you choose, you can report a minimum of data, and though you will miss out on some deductions/credits, you don't have to perform a single calculation.

    Claiming that the government refuses to tell you how much you owe is a falsehood.

  • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @05:34PM (#33116232) Journal

    You realize that almost half of this country pays no income tax whatsoever, right? It seems silly to think that the upper-brackets are getting the sweetheart deal when nearly half of the working population pays nothing.

    They pay no income tax, they pay plenty of other taxes: sales taxes, excise taxes on fuel, etc. And those make up a much larger percentage of their income than for wealthy people. And when you're talking about very high income individuals, they are earning more through capital gains and other sources taxed at lower rates than the upper income tax brackets anyway, than through income subject to the income tax (and FICA tax for that matter).

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:52PM (#33117286) Journal

    You could solve the problem you just described with a simple cost-of-living deduction. There is no need to tax different sources of income (capital gains vs income) at different rates or to tax different income levels at different rates.

    The fact that the tax code is so complicated is what's criminally inhumane. It has created an industry that cheats the downtrodden out of their money with products like refund anticipation loans. This would not happen if the tax code was simplified.

  • by stalkedlongtime ( 1630997 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:04PM (#33117434) Journal
    It won't get you "into trouble", but you may owe a 10% penalty on the underreported taxes if the amount is large enough.
  • Re:Huh?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by selven ( 1556643 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:05PM (#33117990)

    That's not really a problem with sales tax, it's a problem with any tax. A 25% sales tax is equivalent to a flat 20% income tax in every way - with a 25% sales tax the guy's paying $40 in taxes while you're paying $25, and with an income tax the guy has to earn $200 for his $160 while you earn $125 for your $100. No matter which tax you create, if it's evenly applied it's going to magnify the real world. The solution for income taxes is that you can make the progressive, so the guy is paying $25 in taxes on the $160 while you're paying $25 on the $100 because you're in a higher income bracket. With sales taxes you can also solve the problem by applying exemptions to things that poor people spend disproportionately more money on (eg. food and clothing). And for those expensive investments that only make sense in the long term (eg. energy efficient appliances) but are too much in the short term, that's why we have loans and mortgages.

  • Re:Huh?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by williamhb ( 758070 ) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @02:24AM (#33120218) Journal

    A famously broken model. There's an old saying: if you are an ordinary person who buys a football club's shirt as a souvenir, you pay 23% extra in sales tax; if you are a billionaire who buys a football club as a souvenir, you don't. But unlike today, that discriminatory sales tax the whole basis of "fairtax"'s proposed tax system -- the billionaire never needs to worry about corporation tax, CGT, or anything else ever taking a dime from his pocket. Meanwhile, there is already a long history of people pushing purchases through companies (turning them into fringe benefits) to avoid paying tax, and ""s proposals are even more open to that kind of rorting. Personal cars are taxed at increased rates; but company cars are 100% tax-free. Guess what happens to the number of companies providing their employees company cars "for business reasons"? And as everybody floods through the loopholes, the tax base moves to punishing only those who companies give the least tax-avoidance help to: ie, the poor, the unemployed, and the retired.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye