California tried to save the nation from the misery of tax filing — then | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

California tried to save the nation from the misery of tax filing — then

Californians participating in this test run of a “return free” tax system — a goal tax reformers had been chasing since President Reagan proposed it to the nation in 1985 — were so impressed that the thousands of comments that poured into a survey brought tears of joy to Joe Bankman, the Stanford Law professor who guided the state’s effort, which was branded “ReadyReturn. ”“They were just so touching, ” he said of the comments about ReadyReturn, which was designed as a voluntary offering targeted at taxpayers on the lower end of the income scale. “One said, ‘Finally the government is doing something to make my life better for a change. ’ Almost all the comments had the words ‘thank you. ’ People were thanking the government for taking something that drove them crazy and improving it. ”Yet not everyone was thankful. Tax software firms faced an existential threat if the federal government were to follow California’s lead. Over the next decade and a half they worked relentlessly — and successfully — to stymie the California project and prevent others like it. They persuaded the Internal Revenue Service for more than a decade to pledge in writing not to adopt California’s innovation or develop any other offerings that threatened their business model.