The House Republican tax reform blueprint touts that the individual system would be so simplified that individuals would have a postcard-sized return. Speaker Paul Ryan’s 5/19/17 op ed in the Kenosha News states: “Imagine being able to file your taxes on a postcard.”
This isn’t a new suggestion. The Hall-Rabushka flat tax first introduced in 1982 touts that both individuals and businesses would file postcard-size returns (also see chapter 3 of their Flat Tax book).
My concerns with the postcard size return include:
- It sounds like something filled out by hand and mailed in. Why not instead say that it will be so simple that your tax adviser or if you chose, the IRS, can compute your taxes for you and securely text or email you the amount owed which you can use your bank app or Paypal or some type of debit card option to receive a refund or pay an amount owed.
- The size of the return is not tied to complexity. Even today, we can file on a postcard if the IRS would be fine just knowing our AGI, taxable income, total credits (including withholding), tax and amount owed or to be refunded.
- The House blueprint postcard is missing a lot of information such as the taxpayer’s name and contact information, signature line, where you want your refund (if any) deposited, and the penalty of perjury statement.
- Gen Z filers might wonder what a postcard is.
What is a better / alternative message to sell simplification via tax reform to individuals? Letting taxpayers know they can log into their secure online IRS account by February 1 to see their tax calculation based on all of the information returns the IRS has including W-4 information on filing status and number of dependents. If they have other transactions, they can easily add them in. If they prefer, they can set up with a tax return preparer or software provider to have this information show up on an account the taxpayer has created with them. This would also aid the filer with state tax obligations and more complicated aspects of income tax calculations such as dealing with partnership or other business income, retirement plan deductions or distributions, etc.
Another part of the message that can help, perhaps is that the standard deduction is higher and personal and dependent allowances are in the form of a single tax credit (rather than having deductions and credits).
What do you think?