Like filing your income taxes with pen and paper?
The state is going to make it more difficult for you to get the forms you need. And if you don’t have a computer, then be prepared to spend some time on the road to get them.
And if that’s not enough, now the Department of Revenue has changed its procedures for paper filers: It is telling taxpayers to stop using staples to keep all your forms together and to attach your W-2 wage statement.
It’s all part of a budget-cutting move by the Arizona Department of Revenue.
The agency already has trimmed its expenses for the annual exercise.
At one time every individual taxpayer got forms and instructions in the mail. This past year, those packets went to just the approximately 600,000 who filed paper returns the prior year rather than all three million taxpayers.
Spokesman Sean Laux said the state agency can save even more by not mailing out any forms at all.
But he conceded there’s another cost-cutting measure at work: The Department of Revenue wants to prod more taxpayers into filing their returns electronically, even if that means those taxpayers will have to spend some money doing that.
Laux said the move away from having the state print up and mail out the forms makes sense. He said e-filing has become more popular over the years, especially with many companies making and selling tax preparation software that includes an option to file via the Internet.
But he acknowledged that not every taxpayer likes the idea of going paperless and sending out all that information on the Internet. So the change provides a prod of source: Making the forms more difficult to get may provide a bit more incentive to make the switch.
And the issue isn’t just the cost of paper and mailing.
“It’s certainly easier for us to process e-filed returns versus paper forms,” Laux said. “Obviously, when it’s e-filed it’s able to translate into our tax system, versus having to have it directly input by our folks in data processing.”
The savings to the state have a flip side for taxpayers who like paper forms.
At the very least, it means those who have computers – and the necessary printers – will have to go to the Department of Revenue web site to download and print out the needed forms and instructions.
And everyone else?
“I imaging that for those individuals who are unable to access a computer, us not sending them a paper return could create some issues for them,” Laux conceded.
Options do remain.
The Department of Revenue will have forms available at its offices in Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa.
And Laux said that all public libraries will get a master book with each and every form. That allows taxpayers to make copies – at their own expense.
But he’s not convinced the change in policy will create a real hardship for most.
“As the economy and technology increases and more and more things are moving to online, the agency feels like access shouldn’t be a problem for folks,” Laux said.
The staples thing is a separate issue. But the reason remains the same: money.
“This decision was made to improve efficiency in processing paper returns,” he said.
“Removing staples is time consuming and often damages the form itself,” Laux continued. “This somes makes the image returned after it is scanned unreadable.”
He said taxpayers should not fear that all those unstapled papers are going to get lost.
“We have specific procedures to batch information together to ensure that it is not misplaced,” Laux said. “This is really no different than it is today.”