August 31, 1995
IRS Gets Thousands to
Stop Filing Tax Returns
WASHINGTON - Internal Revenue Service encouraging people to stop
filing tax returns? Hard to believe, but in an effort to make life
easier for taxpayers, the IRS has gotten hundreds of thousands of
people who file tax returns -- but don't need to -- to stop.
Unnecessary returns cost time and money for both taxpayers and the
Under its "Reduce Unnecessary Filings" (RUF) program, the IRS
analyzes returns to find people who file needlessly and sends
letters explaining that they don't have to file unless they meet
certain income levels. The filing requirements are higher for
persons age 65 or over and are adjusted each year for inflation.
The IRS first tested RUF in Philadelphia in 1992, mailing 11,000
letters to people whose tax returns for the prior two years
indicated they didn't need to file. With the letters, the IRS sent
worksheets and charts to help taxpayers determine whether they had
to file. Seventy-two percent of those who received the letters
didn't file tax returns that year.
In 1993, when the program went nationwide, more than one million
taxpayers received RUF notices, and nearly half of those taxpayers
didn't file that year. In 1994, the number not filing rose to about
750,000 and may reach nearly 1 million this year.
Although the RUF letters don't ask for a response, many
recipients expressed their thanks to the IRS. A Washington state
woman wrote, "It is good to know that I will be able to reduce, in
some small measure, the amount of paperwork that flows into your
offices each year." A Florida couple explained, "We took our papers
and the worksheet you sent us and we didn't have to file. We saved
$230." A New York resident stated, "It's heartwarming to realize
that despite the size of the IRS, there is a management philosophy
and the caring personnel to pay attention and offer helpful guidance
to single individuals."
Why do people file needless tax returns? A main reason,
predictably enough, is habit. The IRS sends tax packages to those
who filed the previous year and many people think they must file
because they received the packages.
One IRS study found that while people over age 65 filed 13
percent of all returns, they filed 44 percent of unnecessary
returns. Many may not have realized that seniors, who may have less
taxable income than during their younger years, also have higher
A focus group of unnecessary filers also revealed that many
think they must file a tax return until they die. Others believe
filing to be a patriotic duty.
Whatever their reasons, the IRS wants people to see if they have
enough income to require a tax return. Those who don't can do what
most people only dream about -- skip the tax forms and look forward
to April 15 as just another spring day.
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