'Tis the season for taxes. And for 90 percent of Americans, 'tis the season for other people to do their taxes. With all those perplexing deductions and exemptions and calculations for the average family, it's just easier to send your stuff to H&R Block and hope the experts spot enough savings to make the outsourcing worth it.
It doesn't have to be like this. The IRS could have access to enough information -- income from the W-2 and 1099, mortgage interest, charitable donations, 401(k)s from banks -- to send Americans a one-page tax statement we could look over and sign. This wouldn't work for everybody, especially serious investors. But for most Americans with straightforward returns, it would make the April 15 deadline a lot less stressful. It would also make companies like TurboTax and H&R Block pretty nervous.
One way to help the IRS fill out our tax returns would be to make their job easier and dramatically simplify the tax code, eliminating those byzantine deductions or raising the standard deduction to encourage millions of Americans to avoid itemizing entirely. Advocates of tax reform like Sens. Ron Wyden and Judd Gregg and Rep. Paul Ryan propose just that. But something's happening that could block the move to simplify the tax code. It's called technology.