IRS revving up online efforts

The 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, Ga., 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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