Almost a mere global search-and-replace away from a discussion of municipal broadband: Maker of Tax Software Opposes State Filing Help [pdf]
When the state offered to take some of the agony out of tax season for thousands of low-income and elderly Californians by filling out their returns for them, the reaction was overwhelming.
Most of the taxpayers who voluntarily participated in a test run of the state’s ReadyReturn program said it alleviated anxiety, saved time and was something government ought to do routinely. More than 96% said they would participate again, according to a state survey.
Then a legislative committee tried to kill the program, leaving Stanford law professor Joe Bankman, who helped design it, bewildered. He had thought the logic of it was so obvious, and the enthusiasm from participants so great, that lawmakers would rush to embrace it.”I can’t believe how naive I was,” said Bankman, a tax-law scholar with a tendency toward rumpled suits who has temporarily traded the ivory tower for the hallways of the Capitol. “It’s unbelievable how little I knew about how things are really done.”
Bankman had underestimated how much influence one Silicon Valley company could have on the lawmaking process.
[...] Intuit spokeswoman Julie Miller said in a written statement that ReadyReturn is a bad idea, and it is “a fundamental conflict of interest for the state’s tax collector and enforcer to also become people’s tax preparer.”
“The debate over this issue is not â€” and should not be â€” about politics,” she wrote. “It should be about what is the best public policy for every California taxpayer.”
Lawmakers opposed to ReadyReturn say it confuses people, creates privacy concerns and could scare taxpayers away from legitimate deductions.
[...] Tom Campbell, a former budget director who served in Congress and the state Senate, said he has “never seen the public interest being overborne by private interest as clearly as it has been in this case.”
Campbell, who as budget director sat on the state tax board that launched ReadyReturn, said the only argument opponents made to him that wasn’t a red herring was that ReadyReturn threatened their business.
“The argument was never presented in terms of the public interest,” he said. “It was stark. It was: ‘We are doing it and we don’t want the competition.’ ”
Industry officials endorse that position.
“A dynamic, innovative free market is in everybody’s interest,” said Ed Black, president and chief executive of the Computer and Communications Industry Assn. in Washington, D.C. “That kind of market is interfered with when â€¦ government enters as a competitive player. The government always has the advantage.”