The Nixon Administration's decision to shift the Department of Revenue's 1099-G tax notification from a letter to a postcard has attracted taxpayer criticism.
David J. Shively, a Fulton Certified Public Accountant who prepares tax returns for individuals and businesses, said the change appears to be part of a concerted effort by state and federal agencies to push people toward computerized tax returns. He said the amount of extra steps and hassle caused Missouri taxpayers may not be worth the amount of money saved in postage by the state.
John Meyers of B & N Accounting Services in Fulton, said when he first heard of the change he was concerned about how it would affect many people. "The assumption is that everybody has access to modern technology. But many elderly and impoverished people don't have quick and easy access to the Internet. Does that mean someone will be providing that information for a fee?" Meyers asked.
"As with anything with government, if they save money in one place they will spend it in another place," Meyers said.
"I think access to a computer," Shively said, "might be a problem for some people who are not computer literate. It will not be a problem for my clients because if I did a return for them last year, I will know the amount of last year's refund."
Shively said taxpayers who took the standard deduction are not affected by the change. "But for the people affected, it might be a problem," Shively said.
For the first time, Missouri taxpayers who itemized their tax return last year won't receive a letter from the state this year telling them the amount of last year's refund.
Instead, they will receive a postcard from the Missouri Department of Revenue instructing them in the steps they need to go through online to retrieve their 1099-G tax information. They also have the option of calling an automated telephone number at the Department of Revenue. To access either one, a taxpayer must provide answers to security questions.
The 1099-G information is needed by an estimated 750,000 Missouri taxpayers who itemized deductions last year. They must report the exact amount of the state refund or overpayment as income on their federal income tax forms.
The Department of Revenue reports it will save about $75,000 in postage by mailing 750,000 postcards to affected Missouri taxpayers instead of letters.
"Considering the extra effort required by taxpayers, that doesn't seem like a lot of money saved by the state," Shively said.
The U.S. Internal Revenue Services requires the state to notify individual taxpayers about payments such as tax refunds.
Alana M. Barragan-Scott, director of the Missouri Department of revenue, thought it would be cheaper to notify people by postcard rather than through letters used in past years.
However, confidential personal income tax informatioin cannot be placed on postcards for privacy reasons. To get around this, Barragan-Scott said she will mail about 750,000 postcards to Missouri taxpayers instructing them on the steps they need to go through to retrieve the amount of the refund by going online or by calling an automated telephone number.
To find his refund information online, the taxpayer must provide his Social Security number, his home address zip code, and his filing status of the most recently filed tax return.
The 1099-G information for tax refunds can be accessed online at www.dor.mo.gov/tax/1099G or by calling the automated telephone number (573) 526-8299.
Shively said both state and federal governments want people to file electronic tax returns.
He said the IRS for the first time this year is requiring all tax preparation firms to e-file all returns if they handle more than 100 returns this tax season.
"Individual taxpayers can opt out of this if they have a problem with the IRS gaining access to their bank account number when the IRS sends a refund to their bank account," Shively said.