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Tax considerations of blind filers

Louis Braille was born 200 years ago today.

Reading braille The man whose name is known worldwide as the universal communications standard for blind persons was born on Jan, 4, 1809, with normal vision. But an accident at age 3 led to Braille's total blindness. By age 15, Braille had revised an earlier raised-dot design into the system that is used today.

Tax considerations for blind filers: When it comes to taxes, visual impairment is taken into account.

Blind individuals who are dependents of other taxpayers have a larger earnings threshold before they must file a return. Visually impaired taxpayers also are allowed a larger standard deduction amount.

The IRS has a special Web page where it maintains links to all its publications on tax considerations for taxpayers with disabilities.

More accessible tax materials: In recent years, the IRS also has been working to make all of its online documents more accessible to disabled taxpayers.

Many documents are now available through the use of special assistive technology. This includes screen reading software, refreshable Braille displays and voice recognition software.

The IRS Alternative Media Center also has prepared hundreds of its most popular tax forms and publications using full text descriptions where needed. Those files can be downloaded from the agency's Web site, Most of the files prepared in this manner are in ASCII text format, a few were prepared in HTML and all have been transcribed for Braille. The Braille print files are in .brf format and can be sent directly to an embosser for high quality Braille output.

You'll find links to Braille and text format forms at this IRS Web page, and links to publications at this page.

Talk to me:The IRS also is working on "talking tax forms," and no, they don't just say, "Pay us now!".These materials, says the IRS, are exactly like the agency's fillable PDF tax forms and can be found here. The talking forms may be filled in by computer and can be accessed by screen readers and refreshable Braille devices.

IRS definitions: One final note about blindness. For tax purposes, you don't have to be completely without sight to qualify for special consideration.

The IRS says you are blind if your eyesight with corrective lenses is no better than 20/200 in your best eye, or if you have a visual field not greater than 20 degrees. These folks might find the IRS' large print filing instructions and publications of use.

Spread the word: Obviously, readers of the ol' blog aren't likely to be legally blind. But you may, like me, have friends or relatives who are blind for filing purposes. If so, please let then know that they might be able to wrest a few more dollars from Uncle Sam's grip by taking advantage of the tax laws as they relate to them and others with vision issues.

Additional reading: This Slate article looks at the history of special tax consideration for the visually impaired. 

And this account details the efforts of a blind taxpayer who tried to send in his return without any assistance,


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That Slate article offers some really fascinating history. If nothing else, it's a microcosm of how our current law is the result of a lot of really bizarre compromises and half-measures.

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