Tuesday, January 21, 2014

IRS Initiates New All-Online Tax-Filing Protocol

Capital Press

Every year, tax policy changes, become more complex, and oscillate in order to (ostensibly) benefit (and disappoint) taxpayers. In the new year, you can expect to see many new additions to income tax law, including adjustments for inflation, new rules for same-sex families, and some drawbacks for {not buying health insurance either through the government or with a private insurer. One defining part of the 2014 tax law is its postponement by several weeks, courtesy of the tumultuous government shutdown back in 2013. Still, this filing season will also initiate the birth of a totally different type of federal tax change — not only in terms of how we pay, but the way we file.

2014's New Federal Tax-Filing Guide

Earlier this month, the IRS issued a “newly revised comprehensive tax guide,” or, as some people call it, Publication 17: an initiative that should assist Americans file their taxes more easily this year. Publication 17 boasts its multitude of interactive links and tips for what it refers to as “tax-saving opportunities.” Among the additions made to the new IRS guide is educational material on the American Opportunity Tax Credit which impacts currently-enrolled college students and their guardians, and also Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit .

Created by the Internal Revenue Service for over 60 years, the new guide still features material on how to report earnings, capital gains and losses, IRA’s (Individual Retirement Accounts) and necessary info. Still, at a whopping 292 pages, it's very unlikely that many taxpayers will have the time to review the publication in its entirety. Also, considering the complexity of Federal income tax, it's not surprising that the IRS posts almost daily updates to instructions and forms on its site.

Fewer Face-to Face Help Resources

The new policy demonstrates a huge shift away from face-to-face help resources, and toward many more digital mechanisms to assist people in getting through their taxes.

Reductions in the IRS budgets — resulting from sequestration — mean there will be less resources available for in-person tax submission assistance. Rather than having a human representative, those filing taxes will be referred to a variety of online tools, including nearly 13k volunteer partner sites, and resources on IRS.gov - like the IRS 'Free File' program. Even simple questions will now be taken care of online or through one of the IRS' many hotlines. With such online assimilation becoming so ubiquitous, it's rational that the federal government would begin to offer more of its resources online.

More Resources Show Up Online

Although less assistance in the form of interaction with a representative will probably be frustrating for some, there will be people will be glad to learn they can handle more tax-related problems on the web than ever before. Tax payers can now see and complete their tax transcripts at their computer. Additionally, the IRS will also continue to give Employee Identification Numbers via its website. To avoid answering taxpayer questions about the whereabouts of tax refunds over the telephone, the IRS will now handle all related questions on its website as well.

More by Joe B. Garza

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