IRS Gearing Up for Busy E-Filing Season

From a new paperless e-filing option to expanded customer service features, taxpayers will find more and easier ways to get help from the Internal Revenue Service during this year's tax filing season, and preparers have something to celebrate as well. The new 2000 tax forms include an easy checkbox for taxpayers to indicate their agreement to let the IRS speak to paid tax preparers about the tax return.

This week marks the beginning of 2001 filing season. More than 40 million tax packages have started arriving in mailboxes across the nation.

The tax packages and forms reflect the small number of tax law changes for 2000. But the IRS has made a number of improvements aimed at making this tax season smoother for people filing an estimated 130 million individual returns this year.

"The IRS has streamlined several important areas to reduce paperwork and cut red tape," IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti said. "We are determined to improve service and take as much of the headache out of tax time as possible."

This year, the IRS will help taxpayers by:

Expanding E-filing. For the first time, millions of taxpayers can file taxes electronically without submitting any paperwork. This new version of paperless filing will be available to taxpayers who self-select a Personal Identification Number.

The Self-Select PIN -- along with the adjusted gross income and tax amounts from last year's tax return -- will serve as an electronic signature for an e-filed tax return. With this option, a paper form for a signature will no longer be needed.

Adding A New Checkbox Disclosure Authorization. A new feature on the tax forms will be a checkbox allowing easier communication between a person's tax preparer and the IRS. Taxpayers may check this box to authorize the IRS to discuss processing problems over the phone directly with a person's paid preparer.

With more than half of tax returns coming from paid preparers, this change eliminates a barrier that slowed communication between taxpayers, practitioners and the IRS. Because the IRS can talk directly to practitioners, the checkbox will reduce the number of IRS letters to taxpayers.

Improving Telephone Service. The IRS is putting in place an improved call routing system that will lead to more efficiency and help more taxpayers get better telephone service. This is one of the highest priorities during the IRS reorganization and modernization effort. More work remains, but the IRS is taking steps forward to provide better telephone service.

"These changes add up to making things easier for taxpayers," Rossotti said. "We still have more work to do, but we are making progress in our effort to provide world-class service."

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