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The 2019 tax season is upon us, which means the average American taxpayer has just spent, or will spend, an average of 13 hours preparing their 2018 tax returns, with four hours devoted to actually completing the forms, according to figures from the Internal Revenue Service. Or, perhaps, those pesky unpaid back taxes from previous years are still proving to be stressful this year. If that’s the case, Platinum Tax Defenders’ tax resolution services can step in and help you determine a plan to handle your back taxes before you tackle this year’s taxes.

What we’ve learned this month about future tax seasons is that a new bill introduced on April 12 by 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic lawmakers seeks to make the process easier.

Titled the Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2019, the bill would require the IRS to offer a free, online tax preparation tool and filing software to tax filers, allow filers to download third-party provided return information, and allow individuals with simple returns to opt for a “return-free” service that would provide them with a pre-prepared tax return with a pre-calculated refund amount or amount due.

“Taxpayers waste too many hours and hundreds of dollars on tax preparation each year,” said Warren in a statement. “This bill will require the IRS to offer easy, free, online tax-filing for all taxpayers. This is a simple idea with a long history of support from both Republicans and Democrats, and it’s time to make it a reality.”

Warren’s introduction of the Tax Filing Simplification Act arrives on the heels of another bill that was approved on April 9 by the House Ways and Means Committee – the Taxpayer First Act, which intends to fortify and modernize the IRS, expand taxpayer services, and protect taxpayers from identity theft.

Here are some of the provisions in the bill:

  • Establish the IRS Independent office of Appeals to resolve federal tax controversies without litigation.
  • Exempt certain low-income taxpayers from payments required to submit an offer-in-compromise (OIC).
  • Modify tax enforcement procedures that address issues such as the seizure of property, issuing a summons, tax relief from joint liability for married couples, referral for private debt collection, and contacting third parties.
  • Establish requirements for cybersecurity and identity theft protection.
  • Increase the penalty for failing to file a tax return.
  • Ensure resources continue be made available that offer free tax help and free filing options for certain taxpayers, including low-income populations, persons with disabilities, taxpayers with limited English proficiency, and other underserved communities.

However, the Taxpayer First Act has come under some scrutiny from media outlets and members of organizations such as the National Consumer Law Center, who have criticized the bill because, though it would continue the Free File program, it would also permanently prevent the IRS from developing its own free electronic tax filing system.

“This could be a disaster,” said Mandi Matlock, a tax attorney who does work for the NCLC, in an article posted by ProPublica. “It could be the final nail in the coffin of the idea of the IRS ever being able to create its own program.”

Since the early 2000s, the government has required that tax-filing companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block to offer free tax-filing software to the 70% of taxpayers with the lowest incomes (those who make less than $66,000). However, according to ProPublica, only 3% of eligible U.S. taxpayers use the free program each year, and critics say that these tax-filing companies use the free program as a tool to upsell paid products. According to ProPublica, there exists a memorandum of understanding between the IRS and private industry group Free File Alliance wherein the IRS pledges not to create its own online filing system as long as the companies continue to offer these free filing services.

The Taxpayer First Act, which goes to the Senate next, received bipartisan support when it was approved last week. Members of the media have speculated that the bill received bipartisan support because of its positive provisions, such as banning the IRS from using private debt collectors and allocating millions in funding for tax-filing clinics for low-income taxpayers.

However, there are still some consumer protection advocates who argue that the system is antiquated, like Warren, whose Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2019 was co-sponsored by fellow presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker.

Are Americans in store from some relief in the pain, sweat, and tears that can go along with filing tax returns each April? According to experts, the current U.S. system for filing tax returns remains worlds behind other developed regions such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and many other European countries where governments provide taxpayers with software to fill out their returns online, resulting in a free and faster way to file compared to the U.S.

If you or your family is struggling to settle back taxes before diving into your 2018 taxes, get in touch with a specialized tax consultant at Platinum Tax Defenders. Platinum Tax Defenders offers a variety of variety of tax resolution options and help with back taxes that includes working with the IRS directly on the client’s behalf in order to come up with a reasonable payment and settlement plan. Call today and save 10% off your tax relief case 1-800-991-3242. Use code PR101.

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