Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight for the Senate Finance Committee, called on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a Finance Committee hearing to stem the reduction of vital tax filing materials for Americans during this tax season. The IRS recently announced that because of budget cuts, it will limit the distribution of free tax forms and instruction booklets under the Tax Forms Outlet Program (TFOP). Across Pennsylvania, particularly in rural areas, many taxpayers rely on this program for access to up-to-date tax forms. The recent unexpected cuts to the program are causing significant uncertainty for these taxpayers, for example by potentially delaying their receipt of federal tax refunds.
“In recent weeks, my office has heard from constituents who have concerns about cuts to the TFOP program, many of whom are seniors or those without easy access to the internet,” said Senator Casey. “I am urging the IRS to take all necessary steps to ensure that Pennsylvania taxpayers have the forms and assistance that they need to file their taxes without disruption or delay. We need to ensure that critical resources for taxpayers are readily available.”
On January 9, 2015, six days before the start of the 2015 tax filing season the IRS unexpectedly announced that it would begin curtailing the TFOP program due to budget shortfalls. Most notably, the IRS will limit shipments of Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ - the main forms used to file individual income tax returns - and it will stop all shipments of instruction booklets for the these forms. The IRS also appears to be cutting the distribution of printed forms more broadly.
Impacted taxpayers are facing two related problems as a result of the cuts. First, it will be difficult or burdensome for many taxpayers to access tax forms through alternative means. These forms are available at some federal buildings, but most such buildings are located in metropolitan centers and out of reach for many constituents. Second, because affected taxpayers will have a harder time accessing forms, many will be forced to file their tax returns later than planned, which will delay their tax refunds. This will generate significant financial uncertainty for taxpayers who rely on early receipt of their federal tax refund to cover essential expenses.
The full text of Casey’s letter can be seen below:
Dear Commissioner Koskinen:
I am writing to express concern about the IRS’s recent decision to curtail delivery of certain forms and instruction booklets under the Tax Forms Outlet Program (TFOP).
As you know, the TFOP program provides tax forms and instruction booklets to thousands of taxpayers through participating local post offices and libraries. These free forms are an essential tool for ensuring that seniors and low to moderate income taxpayers, who cannot easily access electronic forms, can file their tax returns both on time and without incurring burdensome additional expenses.
I understand that the IRS recently announced that, during the 2015 filing season, it would not provide various tax forms and booklets that were part of the TFOP program in previous years. Specifically, the IRS will stop sending Form 8635-S as well as instructions for forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ.
In recent weeks, my staff has heard concerns about the potential impact of these changes. Many of the affected jurisdictions are home to a large number of seniors with low or moderate incomes and without easy internet access. These vulnerable populations will be disproportionately impacted by the changes to the TFOP program, and many of them will not be aware that printed forms previously mentioned are unavailable until they arrive at a local library or post office ready to prepare and file their returns.
I am therefore concerned about how these changes will affect the many Pennsylvanians who access tax forms and instructions through the TFOP program. Although a growing number of taxpayers file their returns online, in 2014 more than twenty million returns – about 14 percent of the total – were not filed electronically. Thousands of vulnerable taxpayers, such as senior citizens and working families, have come to rely on the TFOP program for printed forms, and any changes could cause serious disruptions to their tax filing season. It is therefore essential that taxpayers continue to have easy access to printed forms and instruction booklets.
I understand that the reduction to the provision of forms under the TFOP programs was at least partly due to shortfalls in the IRS’s budget, which fell for the fifth consecutive year in fiscal year 2015. As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight, I am concerned about these budget cuts and committed to ensuring that the IRS has the resources it needs to provide prompt, transparent and high-quality services to all Americans, particularly vulnerable populations.
Accordingly, I urge you to take all necessary steps to keep the provision of forms under the TFOP program as close as possible to the levels of previous years.
I also ask that you provide me with answers to the following questions:
- What specific resources the IRS has allocated to the TFOP program in recent years?
- What specific additional resources or tools would allow the agency to maintain past years’ service levels under this program?
- What legislative action outside of the appropriations process would help the IRS to improve services for taxpayers who do not file their returns electronically?
I appreciate your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your reply.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator