The Internal Revenue Service has announced that it will no longer mail tax forms to U.S. taxpayers. This policy overlooks the millions of Americans who still file their tax returns by mail. While the new policy makes sense for taxpayers already filing electronic returns, citizens who don't have access to computers, or the skills to use them, face a challenge.
While the IRS has said that the tax forms are available at many post offices and public libraries, this is not necessarily true and can cause frustration for taxpayers who make repeated unsuccessful trips to these facilities in search of the documents. The paperless policy makes it difficult for citizens in rural areas who have no access to the Internet and are miles from nearby post offices and libraries. As we have seen with other government decisions to reduce paper use, the decision unfairly penalizes vulnerable populations and groups who can least afford to spend time and resources.
Ironically, this IRS decision comes during a spike in fraud and identity theft directly related to online tax filing. In recent testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, the Government Accountability Office testified that the IRS has seen a 400 percent increase in fraud and identity theft directly related to the e-filing of tax returns since 2008. It is little wonder that many citizens choose to file a paper return due to concerns about identity theft.
The IRS should reverse its decision and continue to supply paper tax filers with the tax forms and instructions. With the number of e-filers growing each year, the pool of paper filers will no doubt shrink with time. Until then, however, the federal government should not deny this important service to senior citizens and low income individuals who can't e-file, or to taxpayers with legitimate concerns about identity theft.
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. The PAPER Act would establish the right to information in a format that is accessible to all, recognize and protect the need for individuals to access paper-based tax resources, and block the IRS from eliminating important paper-based documents and services without just cause.