Paper-based services are critical to the 33 percent of Americans without broadband Internet access, the 45 percent of seniors without a computer and millions of others, yet the federal government is increasingly digitizing services – and eradicating paper-based information – in order to cut costs.
Directives from the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor and other agencies have forced electronic delivery of essential government services, including savings bonds, Social Security earnings statements, federal benefits checks, pension information and more.
The Coalition for Paper Options supports efforts to restore paper-based access, including:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed regulation (Rule 30e-3), which would eliminate the current default requirement for mutual funds to transmit shareholder reports and other important information to investors in paper form. Hard-copy shareholder reports are a critical and widely read resource for investors. Evidence and experience show that arbitrarily providing shareholder reports online, as Rule 30e-3 would do, will decrease both access and readership.
The IRS has eliminated the mailing of tax forms and instructions, even to the more than 30 million tax filers who filed on paper in the previous tax year. Non-computer-savvy seniors who prefer not to engage expensive tax preparation services now scramble to obtain tax forms and instructions from libraries and post offices, where they are often missing. To aid compliance, the IRS should send tax forms to those citizens who still file by mail.
Introduced by Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) last session, the Personal Access to Paper Election Reform (PAPER) Act (H.R. 3673) amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mail paper forms and instructions to individuals who filed a paper return for the preceding tax year.
In January 2017, all wage earners lost access to their annual Social Security Earnings Statement – probably the most important financial planning tool most Americans will ever see. It allows taxpayers to confirm the accuracy of their earnings history and obtain fair estimates of Social Security benefits. To access the online version, citizens must visit what they hope is the correct website and load sensitive personal data. To date, only 18 percent of wage earners have accessed Social Security earnings statements online.