In an effort to cut costs and encourage the shift towards electronic tax filing, the IRS stopped providing a paper version of Publication 17 (paper-based tax instructions) in 2015.
April 20, 2016 - Consumers for Paper Options, a coalition advocating for access to important paper-based services and information, today applauded the passage of a congressional resolution calling on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to partially reinstate the mailing of paper-based tax instructions. U.S. House Resolution 673 (H. Res 673), which was introduced by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) and passed the House Floor today, says the IRS should provide free paper copies of Publication 17, the Tax Guide for Individuals, to taxpayers who request them.
In an effort to cut costs and encourage the shift towards electronic tax filing, the IRS stopped providing a paper version of Publication 17 in 2015. The only place to find the instructions on paper is through the Government Printing Office, where a hard copy version can be ordered for $23. The IRS is neither offering the income tax instruction booklet to individual filers, nor is it equipping libraries or post offices with the booklet for distribution, as it has done in the past.
“The short-sighted IRS decision to stop providing tax instructions, even to citizens who still file by mail, has potentially disadvantaged millions of Americans,” said John Runyan, executive director of Consumers for Paper Options.
“The government should never take for granted that its citizens have reliable Internet access. Studies by the Department of Commerce and Pew Research Center show that over 30 percent of all Americans still lack broadband, 41 percent of Americans over 65 years of age do not use the Internet at all, and nearly half of minority households lack regular Internet access.
“While we applaud the House for passing H. Res 673 as a significant step toward ensuring all American taxpayers have access to the resources they need, we also hope that members of Congress will take legislative action. We look forward to working with lawmakers on a bill that will ensure all Americans have fair and equal access to tax instructions and other government resources,” Runyon added.
Consumers for Paper Options also supports legislation (H.R. 3673) introduced by Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) to help Americans gain access to critical paper tax forms and instructions, which are no longer mailed and not reliably available at libraries and post offices. Recognizing that millions of Americans still file by mail due to connectivity issues, discomfort with computers or rising cybersecurity concerns, H.R. 3673 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to mail paper forms and instructions to individuals who filed a paper return for the preceding tax year.
Consumers for Paper Options brings together industry, non-profits and consumers in an effort to address the transition to Internet-only resources at the exclusion of millions of citizens. For more information, visit www.paperoptions.org.