No fair: Poll finds most feel they pay too much in taxes

Tax season has arrived, and while a majority of U.S. taxpayers feel they pay too much in taxes, select residents in certain states will benefit from a new, free way to file directly with the Internal Revenue Service.

A poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research polled more than 1,000 adults in mid-December. What they found was that almost 70% of taxpayers feel their local property taxes are too steep and 6 out of 10 feel they pay too much in state sales tax.

The poll also showed that about a quarter of taxpayers believe they receive a good value from paying either a federal income, state sales or local property tax, with about 33% saying it is a poor value in each case. Results showed that just 20% of surveyed taxpayers are “extremely” educated on how taxes are calculated, and most U.S. adults feel either their federal income or local property tax is “unfair.”

Trust in how tax dollars are spent by either the federal government or local school districts is an issue among U.S. adults, according to the survey. Around 16% of polled taxpayers express strong confidence in their local school districts, just 6% share the same sentiment towards the federal government.

Some taxpayers in a dozen states — Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming — will be able to use a new and free tax filing service launched by the IRS called Direct File. The program, announced in October, will be rolled out in phases and is expected to be more widely available in mid-March.

Eligible taxpayers can file if they report a W-2 wage income, an SSA-1099 Social Security and RRB-1099 railroad retirement income, a 1099-G unemployment compensation a 1099-INT interest income of $1,500 or less, earned income tax credit, child tax credit, credit for other dependents, standard deduction, student loan interest or educator expenses.

The pilot is not an option for taxpayers with other types of incomes including business or gig economy income, or those who itemize deductions and claim other credits.

Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren had advocated for a way to electronically file taxes for free and lauded the Biden Administration for launching the pilot.

“We look forward to supporting the IRS’s efforts to develop and expand the Direct File pilot, setting us on a path where millions of Americans will no longer have to worry about giant tax prep companies sharing their private data with Big Tech firms and ripping them off for services that should be free,” Warren said in October.

“As our transformation efforts take hold, taxpayers will continue to see marked improvement in IRS operations in the upcoming filing season,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement earlier this month.

IRS officials said they are anticipating more than 128.7 million individual tax returns to be filed by the April 15 deadline.

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