Minnesota may consider free tax filing

Finding things that Democrats and Republicans can agree on might seem like an impossible task, but here’s one possibility: We shouldn’t have to pay money to file our taxes.

Increasingly — and logically — more people are doing taxes with tax preparation software offered by companies which are happy to take $19.95 to file them with the state of Minnesota.

Five Republicans and Seven DFLers have filed legislation in the House of Representatives to study the idea of allowing Minnesotans to file their state returns for free.

How that will be accomplished isn’t clear, of course; that’s why they want $175,000 to conduct the year long study to figure out.

The study would determine how much it would cost the state per return and whether a vendor could ensure the security of taxpayers’ information.

Whether a vendor would buy into the idea is, perhaps, another story as companies like Intuit (TurboTax) and H&R Block make a fortune selling their software ($39.95 just to buy the “state product” which does little more than pull information from a federal return, the software for which costs about $30). What’s in it for them?

But the feds have figured it out since filing U.S. returns is “free.”

“This is a need that I’ve heard from the public,” Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), told a House committee yesterday, which held the bill for possible inclusion in a broader tax bill.

“Taxpayers are telling us that they would like a free electronic solution that does more than allow them to fill in a PDF copy of their tax return and email it to us,” Terri Steenblock, the Department of Revenue’s assistant commissioner of individual taxes, told the committee, as reported by Session Daily. “They want a solution that works for all taxpayers and not just those who have a simple tax return to file. They want a solution that allows them to file easy and accurate the first time, and they want a solution that doesn’t require them to go to multiple different places to file a return.”

A group of vendors reportedly is “neutral” on the idea.