Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Federal Government Opts for Online Approach to Tax Filing


By Dallas Lawyer Joe B. Garza

Just like other laws, laws about the IRS get more complex, and oscillate in order to (ostensibly) benefit (and disappoint) different groups of taxpayers. This year, you can expect to see a few changes to federal income tax, including adjustments for inflation, new regulations for same-sex families, and even some penalties for {not paying for health insurance either through the government or through a private insurer. One defining mark of the 2014 legislationtax season may be its delay by several weeks, something that can be attributed to the infamous government shutdown back in 2013. But, this season will also initiate the birth of a totally different style of tax change — not only the amount we pay, but in how we file.

2014's 'Improved' Federal Tax Policy

A few weeks ago, the IRS announced the release of a “newly revised comprehensive tax guide,” or, as others call it, Publication 17: a resource that aims to help people file their taxes more easily this year. Publication 17 touts greater interactivity and in-depth review of what it calls “tax-saving opportunities.” In addition to the guide's new features is material on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, affecting current college kids and their parents, and also Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit .

Administered by the IRS for nearly 70 years, the new version of the tax guide will still contain content on how to report income, capital gainst, IRA’s and other fundamental educational material. Still, at nearly 300 pages, it seems unlikely that many taxpayers will make the time to review Publication 17. Given the increasing complexity of Federal income tax, it's no surprise that the IRS would disclose updates to the forms on an almost daily basis.

Less Personal Interactivity

Publication 17 proves a big transition away from face-to-face help resources, and many more online tools created to assist people in getting through tax season in 2014.

Tighter IRS budgets — resulting from sequestration 2013 — mean that there are far fewer resources for face-to-face tax filing help. Rather than having human interaction, those filing taxes will be referred to a variety of online resources, including nearly 13k partnering volunteer sites, and resources on the IRS's offical website - like the IRS 'Free File' program. Even basic help requests will now be answered on the Internet or via one of the IRS' many hotlines. With such online assimilation becoming so ubiquitous, it makes sense that the government would start offering more of its material online.

More Resources Are Available on the Internet

Though many people will certainly be frustrated by less help in the form of interaction with a representative, many others will be happy to learn they can handle more tax-related problems on the web than ever. Now, taxpayers are able to look at and complete their tax forms on the web. Additionally, the IRS will also continue to post Employee Identification Numbers through IRS.gov. Finally, to avoid fielding taxpayer inquiries about the status of income tax refunds over the telephone, the IRS now handles all related questions online as well.

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