By Julie Landry
Manager, Government Affairs
Tea or coffee, Coke or Pepsi, Mac or PC, dog or cat, online or on
paper…. it’s good to have options. You want to be able to make the
correct choice for you—what you prefer. In many instances, the
federal government has removed the ability for taxpayers to have a
choice. Just this week the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that it would return to mailing paper statements to U.S. citizens after a dismal amount of people signed up to receive them online (only 6 percent of the workforce).
This move comes after the SSA decided in 2011 to try and cut costs by only offering online statements. Unfortunately, many of those who depend most on social security don’t have access to or choose not to use the Internet. When you think about the segments of the population who are managing their retirement, who don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, who have concerns about their online security or who just want to continue to have the option to receive a paper statement, it makes you wonder if the SSA thought through their decision. In their rush to digitize, they forgot about many of the taxpayers they serve.
It is a growing trend. Increasingly citizens have been denied the option to access federal services and communications in a paper format. Similar situations are happening with savings bonds and tax documents. This is problematic in light of a recent survey that revealed:
- 72 percent of respondents said the government should continue to provide important documents and records in paper form;
- nearly 30 percent of American households lack Internet access;
- 45 percent of seniors do not own a computer; and
- 8 percent of the population chooses to not conduct business online.
Congress has taken note after hearing complaints from their constituents. Reps. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Mike Michaud (D-ME) introduced H.Res 97, which calls on federal agencies to ensure that taxpayers have the option to receive important information on paper. The resolution has 15 cosponsors. During the budget deal earlier this year Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) included a provision that directed the SSA to present a plan to Congress for returning to mailed statements. Those actions likely spurred this decision.
Having options is the key for important communications. Being able to access your information online is a great option for many and others will want to actually have papers in hand to file for their records. This is a good move by the SSA and for taxpayers.