IRS Revving Up Online Efforts

WASHINGTON (05/09/2000) - The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is stepping up its campaign to move nearly every aspect of the tax return business online in the next several years.

Even as electronic filing of tax returns increases by 20 percent annually - including 35 million returns this year - the agency plans to spur more business online by making it possible for Americans to file their returns on the World Wide Web for free starting in 2003, according to Robert Albicker, deputy chief information officer at the IRS.

Albicker, speaking at the Government CIO Summit in Savannah, Georgia, said the IRS would set up a third-party intermediary to handle the online returns, rather than manage that process internally.

Meanwhile, to help make its target date, the IRS plans to expand a pilot started this year in which e-filers can "sign" their tax returns by submitting electronic returns with personal identification numbers, rather than mailing in a signed document after they file electronically.

The IRS also is working to make it possible for people to file electronically no matter what forms they are using. Some forms require taxpayers to file multiple copies, which cannot be done electronically under the present system, requiring people to mail in the additional copies.

In both cases, more people will be willing to file electronically if they do not have to mail in documents after the fact, Albicker said.

Additionally, the IRS also plans to expand into other online services, he said.

For example, in the years ahead, people will be able to go online to submit a change of address, make a payment or check the status of their refunds.

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