Thursday, May 25, 2006

k / o tells us about Ready Return

Here's a really good idea being hawked by Kid Oakland. Such a good idea that it's probably doomed! k / o: Ready Return:

For the majority of wage earners with basic taxes, people who receive standard paychecks from one employer, the State of California already has all the information needed for them to file an accurate return. The principle behind Ready Return is straightforward: instead of making these taxpayers come up with their tax information do the math and paperwork on their own...why not send them the accurate information the government already has? Why not let them file their return right then and there on their home computer? It's a simple and elegant solution in a zone, taxation, where simple and elegant solutions are hard to come by. More than that, it's a government program that works for working people.
Check out the full post. He give more links and an analysis of why it faces an uphill battle.

I remember reading a similarly heretical idea in the NYT Business section way back in the early Clinton years. They suggested hiring Intuit to revamp the whole tax filing process. In their incarnation of the idea, they'd merely redo the forms in a way to make the important, relevant questions clearer and more prominent while relegating the obtuse stuff, like the RR retirement BS to some appropriately obscure compartment. This Ready Return idea updates the notion to take advantage of our data mining, total-info-aware Big Brother's ability to know what they know about us, and make it work for us. Cool idea.

And while we're at it, why not put the same subversive notion to work to reform Customs and Immigration? Instead of erecting every more Kafkaesque paperwork barriers in the way of immigrants, why not let the private sector turn the agency into a customer-centered service? Why not let DHL run immigration services? Bring state of the art IT to bear to increase the accuracy, timeliness, and utility of the INS databases, while streamlining the process to help immigrants?

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