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No, Warren isn't going to kick Donald Duck in the yarbles. And it's not 1943, either.


Excellent news! While Ted Cruz is yammering on about things that will never happen (filing your taxes on a postcard and abolishing the IRS), Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and six other cosponsors have introduced a tax simplification bill that actually could work to make the annual rite of putting off your taxes a good bit less painful, and also cut down on some tax-preparation companies' predatory practices. Needless to say, since the proposal would reduce the obscene amounts of money tax-prep places make off people who need professional tax preparation the least, it's virtually certain to be lobbied to death. Unless of course the Senate goes back to the Democrats in the next election, maybe!

Here's the skinny: The IRS already has most people's income data, since employers have to send the information on W2s to them anyway. So instead of requiring people to fill out their own 1040s every year, Warren's bill would give people with simple tax situations (like pretty much everyone currently filing a 1040-EZ)

the option not to complete a tax return at all, but to instead receive a pre-prepared return from the IRS with their liability or refund already calculated for them. The IRS already gets most employer and bank information on taxpayers’ obligations -- such as W2s and interest earned -- so all it would have to do is calculate what they would owe for them.

Then, if you agree the IRS added everything up right, you sign the damn thing and send it back, no need to pay someone to do your taxes for you out of fear that you added stuff wrong. Warren's office released a report on the tax prep industry showing that between 8 million and 60 million households would no longer have to file a return if the IRS did their taxes for them. Such a system could save Americans about $2 billion as well as 225 million hours a year preparing their taxes.

The bill also would direct the IRS to develop a free, online service for people with more complex tax situations to prepare their taxes, rather than having them go to private companies; it would also mandate the IRS let people download income and tax information the IRS has collected from their employers and banks. This would save people a buttload of money and time:

Warren’s report estimates that taxpayers will pay $200 to a tax preparation service this year, on average, and spend 13 hours preparing and filing their returns. That cost eats up nearly 10 percent of the average federal refund.

As the situation stands now, thanks to lobbying from the tax prep industry, the IRS has signed agreements with tax preparers that it will not develop a public-access tax preparation and filing service. Warren's bill would reverse that.

The IRS launched a "Free File" program in 2003 that was supposed to allow about 70 percent of taxpayers to use their choice of private online services to file their taxes online at no cost; roughly 5 million people used such services in 2005. But then the tax prep industry started pushing for changes that disqualified 40 million people from the free services; in 2012, only 3 percent of taxpayers were using Free File.

Big surprise! The tax prep services love the current clusterfuck:

In 2014, more than half of all the individual tax returns filed with the IRS were prepared by tax professionals, while about 80 percent of taxpayers rely on a preparer or software to file. Every taxpayer who needs assistance represents a profit opportunity. “The tax preparation industry relies on a complicated tax code to charge consumers high fees, and thus opposes simplification efforts -- particularly those that make it easier to file returns,” Warren’s staff report notes.

And of course, some of the scammier places also offer high-interest "refund loans" where they not only charge people through the nose to do very simple math, but then generously offer an "instant" refund -- with a big chunk of the refund taken out as interest and fees. (Last year when we e-filed, the IRS direct-deposited our refund within a few days; no extra charges.)

Warren and Sanders's bill is a terrific idea, even if it's pretty much doomed to be lobbied to death. It's the kind of thing that government could obviously do more cheaply, but since everyone KNOWS government never does anything right or cheaply, it'll never happen. It already faces huge opposition from the tax prep lobby, which depends on tax forms' complexity:

As far back as 1998, Intuit’s SEC filings indicated that simpler taxes could “reduce demand” for their services, something it has continually brought up in filings since then. In its most recent statement, it warned investors that the development of government tax return systems “may cause us to lose customers and revenue.” Liberty Tax Service explicitly said in its 2015 filing that “demand for our products is related to the complexity of tax return preparation,” saying that government initiatives that would make things simpler “may decrease demand for our services or financial products.” And Jackson Hewitt has regularly cited government programs to simplify tax returns as a fundamental threat to its business model.

Imagine that! The answer, of course, is to keep taxes difficult so people will pay to have their taxes done. Plus, there's the inherent hatred of the IRS; the tax prep lobby's ads will almost write themselves. (Hell, they can re-use the scary Fiberglas Uncle Sam head from the anti-Obamacare ads.)

"No one trusts the IRS. But now socialists Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders want to let the IRS do your taxes for you. Stop the madness: call Congress and tell them to keep the IRS's hands off YOUR MONEY!"

Because after all, your money really belongs to Intuit, H & R Block, Jackson-Hewitt, and the corner store with the idiot teen in the Statue of Liberty costume waving the "INSTANT REFUND" sign during rush hour.

[ThinkProgress]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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Once upon a time... about ten years ago, a group of entirely ridiculous men burst onto the scene wearing stupid hats and telling men that wearing stupid hats and telling men that walking up to women in bars and insulting ("negging") them would get them laid. This did not last long, as women also had televisions and computers and were completely aware of these tricks as well, so when some ass came up to us in a bar and said "Hey, nice nails, are they real?" we would laugh and laugh and loudly announce "Oh my god, this guy just tried to neg me! Can you believe that shit? HEY EVERYONE, THIS GUY JUST TRIED TO NEG ME!" and then refer to him as "Mystery" the whole night.

Most of the men who tried that shit only did so a few times before realizing that it wasn't going to work, and thus moved on to other things. Perhaps things that did not involve furry hats and coming off as a huge creep. We may never know, because I would assume that those who tried it are now extremely embarrassed and would never, ever admit to this to us.

Still, there were a few men willing to eat that shit up, as well as some grifters willing to take advantage of that. Said grifters tended to be extremely misogynistic and seemed more like they were teaching men how to be as despised by women as they were than teaching them how to actually be liked by women.

Some of them, like Roosh V, a creepy weirdo who actually does live in his mom's basement, actively encouraged men to rape women who were intoxicated to the point of being obviously unable to consent.

However, even that branch of the PUA tree is wilting away. Many "self-help" style PUA forums like Nextasf and RSDnation are shutting down or have already shut down. In March, Chateau Heartiste, a batshit crazy PUA turned White Nationalist/Alt-Right blog was shut down by Wordpress. This week, rape advocate Roosh V (whom you may recall once called yours truly a "Wonkette typist/clown face, would not bang") announced that he was renouncing his PUA ways and devoting himself to Jesus. He explained to the forum he manages that he would no longer be allowing anyone to discuss premarital "fornication."

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'Baby Geniuses' star Jon Voight took to Twitter early this morning to proclaim his undying love for Donald Trump, probably because there is no one left in his life who will listen to him talk about this, or anything else, in person. In this video rant, Voight encouraged members of the Republican Party, whom he apparently thinks are the only real citizens of the United States, to stand by Donald Trump and "acknowledge the truth" that he is the best President since Abraham Lincoln.


Part ONE:

People of the Republican Party, I know you will agree with me when I say our president has our utmost respect and our love. This job is not easy. For he's battling the left and their absurd words of destruction. I've said this once and I'll say this again. That our nation has been built on the solid ground from our forefathers, and there is a moral code of duty that has been passed on from President Lincoln. I'm here today to acknowledge the truth, and I'm here today to tell you my fellow Americans that our country…

Oh no, not our absurd words of destruction!

Part DEUX:

is stronger, safer, and with more jobs because our President has made his every move correct. Don't be fooled by the political left, because we are the people of this nation that is witnessing triumph. So let us stand with our president. Let us stand up for this truth, that President Trump is the greatest president since President Lincoln.

Does Jon Voight not know there have been... other presidents? Can he name them? Because really, it does not sound like it. Does he also not know that a very big chunk of the Republican Party actually does not care very much for Abraham Lincoln? Namely those defenders of Confederate statues that Trump called "very fine people?" Also, did he intentionally diss their beloved Ronald Reagan?

Who can know? Who can even tell what he is trying to say or why he is trying to say it. He doesn't appear to have tweeted much since 2016, so I'm guessing whoever's job it was to keep him from tanking his career quit. Either that... or after filming the seventh season of Ray Donovan, he found out it's going to be canceled or his character is getting killed off or something and he is now free to be a jackass? I don't know, I haven't watched the show, although my parents are very into it and mad that I haven't watched it. Literally all I know about it is that it has something to do with Boston, because they keep mentioning that to me like it's a selling point.

It seems useless at this point to note that the people who scream their faces off about how bad it is for Hollywood celebs to support liberal causes, and how they should keep their politics to themselves, etc. etc. make a way bigger deal than normal people do whenever a Big Time Hollywood Celebrity like Jon Voight or, uh, Scott Baio, supports their cause. Mostly because they're the only ones who have elected a reality TV star and the star of Bedtime for Bonzo (who by the way, also once practically ruined a perfectly good Bette Davis movie with his bad acting. Which is not to say that Dark Victory is not fantastic and probably the best thing to watch if you want to sob your face off, but he was very bad in it.) to run the country.

But we might as well do that anyway, because it actually never stops being funny.

[Jon Voight Twitter]

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