On this week’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast, I talk with former Chair of the IRS Advisory Council and Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis School of Law, Dennis Ventry.

Professor Ventry is a long-time advocate for tax reform, specifically reforming the federal free file program. The intent of the federal free file tax program is to allow low-income taxpayers to file their tax returns for free. His critique of the program is in the implementation. The IRS does not administer the program – in fact, the IRS has only three people who oversee the free file tax program. Instead, the IRS has an MOU with companies like Intuit – which makes TurboTax – H&R Block, and others to administer the program. These companies – combined, their lobbying group is known as the Free File Alliance – were fully expecting and hoping to be able to charge all consumers to file their taxes. Those companies blatantly ignore parts of the MOU and engage in false a deceptive trade practices ranging from attempting to upsell taxpayers products they do not need instead of redirecting them back to the IRS’s free file tax program portal to putting code in their website to ensure that a search for that company’s free file tax software will actually direct the person to the company’s fee-based commercial site.

Of course, because these companies do not like that Professor Ventry was critical of them for abusing the public’s trust, they hit him with California Public Records Act and Freedom of Information Act requests. You can listen to the podcast to learn more about how it impacted him, or read this article in the New York Times – that features Prof. Ventry – but is about how private groups are weaponizing FOIA and state PRA’s to go after researchers who look into things they don’t want those researchers looking into.

You can learn more about Professor Dennis Ventry on his University of California, Davis School of Law faculty page. You can also find Professor Ventry’s published works on eScholarship.

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