Episode 760: Tax Hero : Planet Money One professor had a way to make filing taxes easy and painless. It worked. People loved it. But then a big tax lobby heard about it...

Episode 760: Tax Hero

Episode 760: Tax Hero

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A mild-mannered professor figured out a way to make filing your taxes easy. But he was up against huge lobbyists and a GOP pledge.
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Joseph Bankman, the Stanford professor who lobbied for ReadyReturn. Courtesy of Joe Bankman hide caption

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Courtesy of Joe Bankman

Doing your taxes doesn't have to be a pain. In many countries around the world, filing taxes is so easy and painless, "tax day" isn't even a thing.

Back in 2005, a little group of California tax experts were talking shop and they figured, we could do that here in the U.S. A lot of people in California get all of their income from their paychecks, and taxes are already withheld from those paychecks. In those cases, California could just fill out the W-2 for the taxpayers, who could check for errors and just send them back in. Easy as 1-2-3. (That was the slogan the state came up with). They named it: ReadyReturn.

A tax law professor, Joseph Bankman, thought this was such a no-brainer, he offered to help test out the idea with a small group of California taxpayers. He ran a little trial and ReadyReturn was such a huge success. Taxpayers raved about how great it was. Other states started paying attention to see if they could use the plan, too. California's governor at the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger, supported the plan.

Bankman thought getting ReadyReturn through the California legislature would be smooth sailing. He thought wrong.

Today on the show, what happened when one mild-mannered professor took on the tax system.

(Today's episode was reported with Priceonomics. Read a version of this story on their website.)

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