Saturday, July 17, 2021

Intuit will withdraw from IRS Free File program

Intuit, maker of TurboTax, will cease participating in the IRS Free File program (CNBC article). People will still be able to file free using TurboTax, since there is a free version of TurboTax outside the IRS's Free File program. CNBC says, "In the last tax season, Intuit delivered 17 million free tax filings, including roughly 3 million through IRS Free File, according to the company." So 14 million returns, about 82% of the 17 million, were filed using TurboTax's free version outside the IRS's Free File program anyway. The 82% is instead 90% for the latest eight tax seasons. 

Neither the CNBC article nor Intuit's blog mention ProPublica's smear campaign conducted between about April 2019 and February 2020. Regardless, I bet the smearing had something to do with Intuit's decision. I wrote several blog posts about the smearing. At least it gave Intuit a lot of bad publicity and spurred a government investigation (link).

The Intuit blog mentions the limitations and restraints of the IRS Free File program, but does not say what they are. Most or all of these limitations and restraints are ones imposed by the IRS. Very likely one is the IRS's no advertising mandate. Another likely one is the "dead-end street" problem within the IRS Free File program. A user can start using one of the free software offerings and later find out he or she does not qualify due to some obscure criteria. In other words, the software leads the user to a "dead-end street,"  and the user has wasted a lot of time. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

USPS pension Ponzi scheme

This Reason magazine article is about the United States Postal Service's pension system. Its pension system has a $50 billion unfunded liability. That's an "accounting term for the gap between what actuaries expect the system to owe current workers and retirees for the rest of their lives and the revenue it's expected to take in from paychecks and investment earnings." 

If a private sector company's pension plan has a severe unfunded liability, the federal government's PBGC will intervene and shut it down. The federal government is not likewise intervening on the USPS pension plan. This shows the federal government's hypocrisy and a double standard. 

The article also refers to the $70 billion unfunded liability of the USPS fund for paying health care expenses for retired workers. There is no PBGC counterpart for private sector plans that pay such expenses. Private sector companies are not required to prefund health care expenses for retired workers mainly because they could, theoretically, eliminate those benefits at any time. If a private company terminates a plan that pays retiree health care benefits, it doesn't make a new gaping hole because the payments it makes are small. Nearly all retirees get most of their health care expenses paid for by Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and Medicare supplement insurance. In other words, there are alternative resources. However, there is no different resource for retiree USPS health care expenses. The federal government still has the funding obligation. The only way the federal government could get rid of its liability for USPS retirees is to stop paying their health care expenses. Rest assured that won't happen.