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A Bad IRS Idea: Your Tax Forms Are Not in the Mail

I’ve been around long enough to see some incredibly dumb ideas come out of Washington, but the decision to stop mailing out tax forms may be the stupidest move of all time. Here’s the story.

Bloomberg News

To save $10 million a year in printing and mailing costs, the Feds have made it the taxpayers’ problem to figure out how to get their hands on IRS forms and instructions so they can file their legally-required returns. Until now, you received forms and instructions in the mail at the beginning of each year if you filed a paper return the year before. The idea was to make it easy to fill out your return and cough up any taxes you owed. That made sense, because the government needed your tax dollars to cover its expenses. Apparently the powers that be have decided that making things easier for taxpayers is no longer necessary since there’s no longer any relationship between tax collections and government spending.

Granted, only about 8% of returns are self-prepared on paper these days. The rest are prepared by professionals or filed electronically. Still, 11 million taxpayers left out in the cold is a big number. The IRS advises these folks to get their needed forms online at www.irs.gov. But what if you don’t have Internet access? The IRS suggests visiting your friendly local post office or public library. I tried both places, and they didn’t have any forms (much less the sometimes voluminous instructions). Apparently mine was not a unique experience.

The last resort is your friendly local IRS office. I live in a metro area of about 500,000, and we only have one office. It’s all the way across town, and it’s only open Monday through Friday between 8:30 and 4:30 (but closed for lunch between 1PM and 2PM). Don’t think I’ll be going there.

If I’m a reluctant taxpayer, guess what? I just gave up.

But hey, making it difficult for 11 million households to file returns and pay taxes is going to “save” the Feds a whopping $10 million. Do you see any problem with this logic? Meanwhile, the government has no reservations about spending gazillions on stuff like this (think fraud, outdated programs).  And these boondoggles.

Do we live in a crazy world or what? Readers, please weigh in.


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About The Tax Blog

  • The Tax Blog brings together a team of award-winning tax journalists from the Dow Jones network and around the web to examine the tax issues, changes and legislation that affect families, investors and small business owners. Our contributors include Tax Report columnist Laura Saunders (WSJ), Tax Guy columnist Bill Bischoff and senior reporter Jilian Mincer (SmartMoney.com), retirement-focused reporter Anne Tergesen (WSJ), wealth management writer Arden Dale (Dow Jones Newswires), TaxWatch columnist Eva Rosenberg and personal finance reporter Andrea Coombes (MarketWatch), and reporter Alyssa Abkowitz (SmartMoney). They’ll provide the latest news and insight, mine the tax code for tips and loopholes, and answer your questions about tricky tax situations. Contact the The Tax Blog with ideas, suggestions or tax questions at thetaxblog@dowjones.com.