Minnesota considers free-filing for state income tax

In the world of nickel and diming, there’s not much more outrageous than charging customers to take their money.

Venues charge convenience fees for the convenience of buying their product, insurance companies charge $1 a month to automatically take money out of your bank account, license tabs come with a “tech fee”, and if you want to file your state income taxes, you’re probably going to be hostage to a $19 fee that tax programs charge to provide what the federal government provides “free”: an opportunity to take your tax money.

Eighty-five percent of taxpayers in Minnesota now file their taxes electronically and there’s usually a cost to do so, although some of the major tax preparation software provides free filing for low-income residents and/or members of the military.

A state representative’s bill to study the idea of letting all people file taxes electronically without charge, however, is still alive today after a House committee held the bill over for possible inclusion in the larger so-called omnibus bill.

Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins) is asking for $175,000 to study electronic filing.

That’s not going over so well, though, with the let-the-taxpayers-keep-more-of-their-money crowd, judging by Session Daily’s article.

“For 15 percent it seems like a study that may be a solution looking for a question,” said Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake). Rep. Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore) said he “can’t fathom” spending this kind of money for a study.

Albright also wondered why MN.IT, the state’s central information technology organization, would not be part of, or perform, the study.

“I have reservations from an IT perspective of who’s going to be doing this,” said Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia). “I also think an 85 percent saturation rate is about as good as you’re going to get.”

“It is a way that we can provide a service for our constituents for something that we are required to do,” Youakim countered. “It’s not a requirement to get more people to file online.”

A DFLer on the committee said he was worried that it could lead to paper-filers — the elderly, he theorized — being required to file electronically.

Bottom line? Don’t hold your breath that the effort will succeed this year, and maybe stock up on your nickles and dimes.