Too Many Men on the Field?

Allan Rolnick, CPA

This weekend marks the kickoff of the NFL playoffs, and questions abound. Does Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson have what it takes to go all the way? Can San Francisco’s Brock Purdy finally silence the doubters? Will Kansas City’s Travis Kelce be too distracted to focus on the field? Stay tuned for all the action leading up to the big game on February 11! The NFL playoffs also mark the unofficial beginning of Tax Ad Season. As usual, Intuit’s TurboTax will be suiting up against H&R Block. TurboTax is charging out of the locker room with a new “Make Your Moves Count” campaign celebrating those who are “carving their own path, making bold moves and living in new and modern ways.” We’re not sure what any of those things have to do with taxes, but the ads will focus on the company’s tax experts, AI technology, and filing solutions, “ensuring the best outcomes for all types of filers.” At the opposite end of the stadium, Block is rolling out a new slogan, “It’s Better with Block,” and suiting up Max, a nerdy-looking 3D mascot with a white shirt and green tie handing out trophies and medals. Block is calling Max a “taxcot” (barf), which has to make you long for the days when they featured actual humans like Willie Nelson and Jon Hamm in their ads. (They’ve come a long way since that time in 2005 when they mailed out copies of their TaxCut software with the users’ social security numbers printed on the mailing labels.) This year, there’s a new team on the field. The IRS is piloting a new service called DirectFile that lets users file online, for free, directly with the IRS. It’s open to taxpayers in 12 states, including California, New York, Texas, and Florida. And it’s limited to simple filers who report income from W-2s, social security, and up to $1,500 in interest, and who take the standard deduction.

The IRS expects several hundred thousand filers to take advantage of the new system. The IRS says they’re “starting small to get it right” and plan to expand in future years. As you might expect, Intuit and Block aren’t happy with the new competition. Intuit spokeswoman Tania Mercado snidely dismissed it as a half-baked solution and waste of taxpayer money: “The direct file scheme is a solution in search of a problem.” We’ll see if she scores points with taxpayers who have a problem paying $40 for something the government can give them for free. 2024 promises to be a big year for taxes and tax filing. This weekend, negotiators representing the House and Senate agreed to a government funding deal that cuts $10 billion from IRS enforcement activities. It’s an election year, which means a new Congress and White House will get their chance to monkey around with the rules. (It’s also a leap year, which lawyers love, because they get an extra day to bill their clients.) Here’s the biggest problem with TurboTax, Block, and the new IRS program. They do a perfectly good job of telling you how much you owe. But they won’t do anything to tell you how to pay less. There’s not a whiff of planning involved. None of the coaches leading their teams to playoff contests this weekend would dream of taking the field without spending countless hours watching game film to understand their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses – then developing a playbook designed specifically to take advantage of those circumstances. Why would you take the field against the IRS without a playbook of your own? Put us in the game, and let us anchor your financial defense!

Allan J Rolnick is a CPA who has been in practice for over 30 years in Queens, NY. He welcomes your comments and can be reached at 718-896-8715 or at allanjrcpa@aol.com.

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