Sometimes you hear news that can pull you in two different directions. This happened to me last week when the IRS announced it is pushing some paperless initiatives. In one direction, it is great that the agency is moving forward with increasing access and speed while adapting to how more people are carrying out correspondence and business. The pull in the other direction is wondering how this could have taken so long. I mean, for how many years have you received notices from just about everyone you pay money to that they would prefer it if you went paperless?
And the more you look into this, the more it seems like the IRS is far behind the times. As part of the paperless push, they are committing to digitally process 100% of tax and information returns submitted by paper in the 2025 filing season. Yes, that means they are not currently doing it. Yes, that means they also don’t think they can get this in place by next year. To me, it doesn’t sound like this would take more than a nominal technological investment. So if this feels backward to you, I think it should.
This should only feel like new technology to very few people. But it goes even beyond that for the IRS, which spent multiple years working on a backlog of paper returns caused by decreased in-person staffing in actual mail-receiving offices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now I suppose one could argue that dealing with the backlog before making any sweeping changes made sense, but there seems to also be a very valid argument that increased digital acceptance could have gone a long way to keep the backlog from growing and shortening how long it took to work through it.
Beyond that, the agency currently stores over a billion historical documents on paper, which sounds like a lot, but can easily be reached when one thinks about how many millions of taxpayers out there. The storing of these documents, though, costs more than $40 million/year, which sounds like pretty steep rent, though, if you ask me.
But again, this push-and-pull dynamic does include some positives, too, and the fact that the IRS is committing to make this change does (finally) make sense and is a good thing. We can shake our heads at the timing, but at least it is happening. Because in much the same vein, no one wants to buy stamps either, when answering anybody for anything.
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