No one would be forced to accept the IRS accounting of their taxes, they say, so there's little to fear.
"It's voluntary," Austan Goolsbee, who served as the chief economist for the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, told Pro Publica.
Well, for one thing, it doesn't help that it's been opposed for years by the company behind the most popular consumer tax software — Intuit, maker of Turbo Tax.
Conservative tax activist Grover Norquist and an influential computer industry group also have fought return-free filing.
The company also lobbied on bills in 20 that would have barred the Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, from initiating return-free filing.
Intuit argues that allowing the IRS to act as a tax preparer could result in taxpayers paying more money.
(Update 4/18: Norquist's spokesman, John Kartch, disputes that "Norquist declined comment." During the course of reporting the story, we contacted Kartch to get a comment from Norquist, to which Kartch simply referred us to the letter.) A year after Norquist wrote Bush, a bill to limit return-free filing was introduced by a pair of unlikely allies: Reps.
Eric Cantor, R-Va., the conservative House majority leader, and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a liberal stalwart whose district includes Silicon Valley.
"It's doable, feasible, implementable, and at a relatively low cost." So why hasn't it become a reality?
Intuit has spent about .5 million on federal lobbying in the past five years — more than Apple or Amazon.
Although the lobbying spans a range of issues, Intuit's disclosures pointedly note that the company "opposes IRS government tax preparation." The disclosures show that Intuit as recently as 2011 lobbied on two bills, both of which died, that would have allowed many taxpayers to file pre-filled returns for free.
The idea, known as "return-free filing," would be a voluntary alternative to hiring a tax preparer or using commercial tax software.
The concept has been around for decades and has been endorsed by both President Ronald Reagan and a campaigning President Obama.