Letter to the editor

I am writing to comment on a letter from Ace Cenek in the Aug. 19 issue of Federal Computer Week. Cenek is concerned about the cost to the public of filing tax returns via electronic methods.

Several constituencies are working for a piece of the electronic filing pie. Congress wants to increase the number of tax returns filed electronically in order to save processing costs and increase accuracy. The Internal Revenue Service has a statutory mandate to increase e-filing. The president, in his budget for fiscal 2003, has called for commercial software companies to compete in the process. The president believes that government should not compete with private companies in the marketplace. The Council for Electronic Revenue Communication Advancement (an industry group) wants to keep the IRS from offering software in competition with commercial companies.

Bottom line: The IRS must accept electronically filed returns. An increasing number of e-filings must be solicited every year. The IRS is not allowed to offer either free or low-cost software to the public to do the job. This would violate a current political tenet: Government must not compete with private industry.

The compromise, an agreement to allow a consortium to provide e-filing services, some for free, is the current solution.

Tom Hart Dedham, Mass.

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