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IRS-prepared taxes have Coats’ support

For millions of American taxpayers, the uncelebrated unholiday known as Tax Day is spent in an anxious scramble. April 15 doesn’t have to be this way.

Most Americans have relatively straightforward finances. What’s more, tax data has already been supplied to the Internal Revenue Service long before April 15. In essence, their tax filing merely confirms what the IRS already knows.

So why not take the next logical step and let the IRS prepare people’s tax forms? The IRS could send millions of American taxpayers a pre-filled return. They could review the document and sign off. If they have objections or amendments, they could file their own.

The service would be simple. It would be efficient. It would be voluntary. It would be free. What’s not to like? Plenty, if you happen to make a living in or from the tax-preparation industry. And the usual suspects in the anti-tax movement oppose simple returns on the theory that if taxes are easier to pay, fewer people will object to paying them.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana introduced a bill in 2011 that would allow the IRS to prepare tax returns. It has gone precisely nowhere.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously said that taxes are the price we pay for civilized society. But we can still make the tax-paying itself a little more civilized.