Saturday, July 7, 2018
The Hill op-ed: Free File Providers Scam Taxpayers; Congress Shouldn't Be Fooled, by Dennis J. Ventry, Jr. (UC-Davis):
In April, the House unanimously passed the Taxpayer First Act, including a provision to codify the IRS Free File Program.
Making Free File a permanent part of the tax law would mean that the IRS and its private-sector Free File partners — organized as the Free File Alliance (FFA) and including Intuit and H&R Block — would no longer periodically renegotiate the terms and conditions of the program.
For that reason alone — i.e., preventing the IRS from verifying that FFA companies deliver free tax filing services as promised — codifying Free File is a terrible idea.
Even worse, codification would enshrine a program that inflicts substantial harm on taxpayers by facilitating predatory upselling of paid products to Free File users, violating taxpayer privacy laws and stripping taxpayers of legal remedies in the event of disputes with FFA companies. ...
Rather than codify Free File, Congress should restructure it to focus on providing truly free e-filing services.
In so doing, Congress should authorize the IRS to verify that FFA companies (i) disclose all upselling activities and revenues, and further disclose to whom they sell taxpayers’ private information (ii) abide by all taxpayer privacy laws and (iii) preserve the full range of taxpayers’ legal rights in the event of disputes with FFA companies.