Income tax should be as easy as a credit card bill

Income tax preparation could be as easy as a credit card bill for the vast majority of taxpayers. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gets all the information required to prepare your tax return for you. In most advanced industrialized democracies, people get draft tax returns from the government, which they can file or revise.1 Not in the US. Open Secrets, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that compiles data on lobbying and campaign contributions, attributes that in part to lobbying by the tax preparation industry.2 Since 2003, that industry has spent more than $93 million on federal lobbying, according to Open Secrets. Over half of those $93 million came from Intuit, which produces the popular tax preparation software, TurboTax. Last year, Intuit spent $3.8 million on federal lobbying vs. $3 million for H&R Block.3 

The cost of preparing and filing all federal business and personal tax returns in the US has been estimated at between $100 and $150 billion per year.4 In 2005 the Government Accountability Office estimated that the cost of compliance was roughly 1 percent of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Since these taxes were roughly 17 percent of GDP, that means that for every dollar collected in income taxes, taxpayers had to spend an additional 6 cents just complying with the law.5 

If the IRS sent taxpayers draft tax returns, it would save the vast majority of that $100 to $150 billion. It would also mean that the major media would not get nearly as much ad revenue from tax preparation services like Intuit and H&R Block. So they rarely report on this, and certainly not in ways that might help voters to make informed decisions in the ballot box. 

Radio Active Magazine regular Spencer Graves discusses these issues with Anna Massoglia, the Editorial and Investigations Manager with Open Secrets. They recently published a report that documents how, “TurboTax maker Intuit spent millions in record lobbying blitz amid threats to tax prep industry“.3 Anna manages editorial content and investigations at OpenSecrets as well as researching dark money and foreign influence. She holds degrees in psychology and political science from North Carolina State University and a J.D. from the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. She has been with OpenSecrets since 2015.6

This is an update on an interview with Massoglia last March 21, almost a year ago.7

Copyright 2024 Anna Massoglia and Spencer Graves, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 international license.


1. Spencer needs to ask Anna for a reference to document which other countries send draft tax returns to taxpayers.

2. Open Secrets (, accessed 2024-02.27.

3. Anna Massoglia, “TurboTax maker Intuit spent millions in record lobbying blitz amid threats to tax prep industry“, Open Secrets, 2024-02-06

4. “Federal” section of the Wikipedia article on “Tax preparation in the United States“.

5. Chuck Young, “Tax Policy: Summary of Estimates of the Costs of the Federal Tax System” (GAO-05-878), Office of Public Affairs, US Government Accountability Office (GAO), 2005-08-26 (

6. Anna Massoglia, Open Secrets Staff ( 

7. Anna Massoglia and Spencer Graves, “Why don’t taxpayers get draft income tax returns like credit card bills”, Radio Active Magazine, KKFI (, 2023-03-21. 

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