With elections over and a new tax season looming, the Internal Revenue Service is working on a kindler, gentler image.
The IRS, which has had its budget cut and has mandated thousands of layoffs, is promoting services and rules that will help ease its paperwork burden, speed the pace of refunds and help taxpayers more.
"We're going to try to perform our customer service better than we have in the past," said Al Brooke, director of the IRS's Atlanta district. "... We're trying to get our demand focused in the right place."
Mr. Brooke was in Augusta on Monday with Max R. Thomas, Augusta group manager of the IRS's examination division, speaking with media about programs and services, such as electronic filing and TeleFile, which was used in Georgia for the first time this year during the 1995 tax year filing season.
Electronic filing is available through authorized tax preparers and is being offered now through six on-line services, Mr. Brooke said, adding that 525,000 Georgians, or 18 percent of eligible taxpayers, filed this way for tax year 1995.
TeleFile is so quick and error-free that taxpayers are encouraged to use it, Mr. Brooke said. He said 79,000 filed the first year and only 0.05 percent contained errors. Taxpayers who file 1040EZ and receive a special tax packet with a personal code can use it.
For some companies, electronic filing will be required. Companies that had more than $50,000 in wage or FICA taxes withheld from employees' paychecks in tax year 1995 must transfer that money directly to the U.S. Treasury electronically starting tax year 1996, under the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, Mr. Brooke said. Businesses must sign up with NationsBank (on the East Coast) by July 1997 via a process that takes six to 10 weeks.
But the EFTPS program will accept funds from businesses who have less money to send the Treasury. "We'll take any business taxpayer into that program that we possibly can," Mr. Brooke said.
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