Getting and keeping
Both sides
of the tax evasion coin

Word, and no word,
from the IRS

Old Man Winter has shown his blustery face enough to encourage people to start looking for ways to keep the cold out of their homes.

At least it looks like that's the case for IRS employees, who have just put out the official word for folks seeking to take advantage of the homeowner energy credits I mentioned here.

The tax-approved items include:

  • Insulation systems that reduce heat loss or gain,
  • Exterior windows, including skylights,
  • Exterior doors, and
  • Certain metal roofs.

Energy-efficient improvements that meet the new energy bill's standards will get you a 10 percent credit on your next tax return. You can get more details here.

But while the IRS is spreading the word on this new law, some taxpayers haven't heard a peep out of the agency about 2005 filing material.

A few days ago, my aunt asked me if my husband and I had gotten our annual filing material from the IRS. She was a bit concerned since we're well into filing season and she has yet to see any forms or instructions from Uncle Sam.

Well, she -- and hubby and I and many of you -- aren't going to get that usual IRS paperwork collection this year.

Earlier in 2006, the IRS did send out almost 17.7 million tax packages. But another 15.5 million of us simply got a post card.

Actually, it was more than your standard 3x6 postcard. It's a 5x8-inch, mid-fold, four-page mailer with bright blue and yellow color splashes.

Efile_size2_2 The document doesn't contain any material to help you complete your taxes. Instead, it encourages recipients to get that necessary stuff via our computers and e-file this year.

The IRS has two reasons for sending almost half of us taxpayers a post-card tax reminder instead of the full package.

First is fiscal. The agency says it costs nearly $6 million to print complete filing packets and another $5.1 million to mail these bulky things, coming to an average of 63 cents per package. By comparison, the slightly oversized postcards run about 20 cents each (bulk rate).

The second reason is administrative. The IRS wants more of us to file electronically. The agency has been ordered by Congress to get 80 percent of us filing that way by 2007, although one oversight groups has recommended that date be pushed back to 2011. Extra time or not, the IRS still is pushing e-filing.

So the postcards extolling the value of e-filing went to taxpayers the agency determined were likely to use a computer to do their own returns.

My aunt didn't get the package because she had an accountant file her return last year. The IRS expects folks like her to use their accountants again this year, and most tax preparers are on the e-fling bandwagon. She's not sure if she never got the postcard or simply threw it out as junk mail without giving it a close look.

We did get our postcard. It's right here on my desk, which is how I was able to provide such a complete description a couple of paragraphs earlier.

And I did use a computer tax program to complete our return last year. But I printed it out and mailed it with the check for what we owed because I didn't want to pay the extra fee that's tacked on to credit card tax payments.

I know, it's not that much and I had to pay anyway, but it was just the principle. My line in the sand last year was what I owed Uncle Sam and not a penny more than 29 cents to anyone to get it there!

I'll use the software again this year to fill out our 1040 and other forms, but I haven't run the numbers yet to see if we'll owe. If we do, I suspect I'll once again write the old-fashioned paper check.

And who knows? Maybe we won't owe this time.

In that case, then we all will be happy, the IRS because it'll finally get our documents electronically and the hubby and I because we'll have a refund coming our way.

TODAY'S TAX TIP: If you're like us and haven't e-filed yet, you can read more about your electronic tax options here to help you decide if this is the year to change your filing ways.

And if you're also like us in that you owe, but unlike us in that you're willing to send the IRS its money electronically, this story has information on ways to e-pay your tax obligations.


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