By Mark Pitts
Executive Director, Printing-Writing & Pulp
If you thought the process of filing taxes is becoming more confusing and onerous each year, just wait; the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has plans to get out of the business of talking with taxpayers by moving 150 million individual taxpayers to online accounts in the next five years.
The IRS announced a “future state” plan in 2015, which includes a substantial reduction in telephone and face-to-face interaction with taxpayers by 2019. The agency has already taken steps to reduce service, without taxpayer input or congressional oversight, by unilaterally eliminating access to 2015 tax information in paper form through the mail. The IRS eliminated sending both the basic tax form and the Tax Instruction Guide (Publication 17) to individual filers through the mail, which is an essential resource needed for tax preparation, and stopped equipping libraries or post offices with the preparation booklet for distribution, as it has done in the past.
This change in plans has not gone unnoticed. In its 2015 Annual Report to Congress, the National Taxpayer Advocate identified the IRS shift to online service as the number one of 20 most serious problems facing taxpayers that may leave taxpayer needs and preferences unmet.
This rush to digitize is the latest example of government reducing a core service, disadvantaging individuals without adequate access to the Internet, and making it much harder for others to resolve their problems, or increase compliance costs by forcing them to pay third parties for assistance.
In an effort to reverse this disturbing trend, Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) has taken the lead in protecting taxpayers’ right to choose paper communication. He has introduced a bill to require the IRS to mail paper forms to any individual who filed a paper return for the preceding taxable year (H.R.3673). I urge everyone to help bring attention to the attempts by the IRS to limit its interaction with Americans by telling your members in the U.S. House of Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 3673.
You can use the American Forest & Paper Association’s Grow the Vote website to find your members of Congress and their contact information. The site can be found at http://bit.ly/growvote.