PHOTO: The first large print IRS tax form and instructions for Schedule R (Form 1040A or 1040) that I received only a few days after calling the IRS. I have been promised more large print forms, instructions and publications from the IRS within the next few days, or as soon as they become available. I have also downloaded the IRS PDF tax forms that are supposed to be more accessible for people who are low vision blind. I will be also trying these PDF forms out when I do my taxes this year. I was also impressed to see Braille .brf and text format files available for download. The IRS is trying to go paperless to save money on printing forms and the associated mailing costs by forcing everybody who wants to use paper forms to call and order each one individually. As a result, I bet the cost per form mailed has skyrocketed from the days when the IRS automatically mailed out pre-bound tax packages that included all of the forms required by most taxpayers. I am sure some anti-government-spending people will complain about the cost -- it cost the IRS at least the $5.75 of postage to mail me a large print Schedule R, as seen by the stamp on the hand addressed envelope in the above photograph.
As a person who has low vision blindness and who has filed his own taxes for over half a century, I was disappointed a few years ago to find out the IRS Web site was inaccessible to me because it had added style sheet code that overrides the standard built-in internet browser features that have provided low vision blindness accessibility since 1993, such as text size and wrapping of text to the user's screen width or printer margins, per the original HTML standard. See my previous letter to the editor: Thomas Kraemer, "IRS ignores plea for help,"Gazette-Times, Feb. 5, 2012, p. D5 and also see my previous posts IRS tax forms are not low vision accessible and violate ADA law (1/5/12), Filing paperless tax return is not free for all (12/9/ 10) and I am still alive (2/26/11).
Here is my latest letter to the editor on IRS accessibility issues:
In 2014, taxpayers will belatedly receive Internal Revenue Service tax instructions with larger text sizes via standard tablet readers or Internet browsers, perhaps thanks to a congressional inquiry made by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio at my request, which asked why IRS tax forms, instructions and publications were not accessible to people with low vision blindness, as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (the ADA law).
Last month, when I tried out the newly accessible IRS documents, I encountered only a few minor usability issues and software defects.
Still unconfirmed is if all taxpayers will be able to file paperless electronic tax returns for free, even if required by the IRS to use the "Free File Fillable (sic) tax forms," instead of the "Free e-File" method, and paper returns are eliminated.
Because tax filing time is coming up again this year, I have been checking with the IRS periodically and here are the links I noticed for the new IRS accessible pages:
- IRS Order Forms & Publications
- Accessible Forms & Publications iRS.gov accessed Dec. 31, 2013 page last Reviewed or Updated by IRS 03-Sep-2013)
- IRS Accessible Forms & Publications - "Accessible Forms & Publications The Internal Revenue Service offers content in a variety of file formats to accommodate people who use assistive technology such as screen reading software, refreshable Braille displays, and voice recognition software. We have prepared hundreds of tax forms and publications that can be downloaded or viewed online in text-only, Braille ready files, browser-friendly HTML, accessible PDF, and large print."
- IRS Accessible PDF Forms, irs.gov accessed Dec. 31, 2013 page Last Reviewed or Updated by IRS 26-Dec-2013 - "The forms on this page are provided in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (.pdf). These PDF forms are fully accessible but there is no computation, validation, or verification of the information you enter. These files can be saved and printed."
- IRS Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return for 2013 to be filed in 2014 accessed Dec. 28, 2013 (PDF) - NOTE: unlike all other PDF forms I've encountered, this one is savable to a local computer after editing it, without having to install a paid version of Adobe Reader.
- IRS HTML Format - Tax Instructions (Read Online) - NOTE: accessibility issue with the text not wrapping to the user's screen width or printer margins
- 1040 (2012) Forms and Instructions 2012 filed in 2013
- "IRS Large Print Format - Tax Instructions," irs.gov accessed Dec. 31, 2013 - "IRS Tax Instructions in Large Print This page contains large print versions of IRS tax instructions. Each instruction is a compressed ZIP (.zip) file, which contains a Portable Document Format (PDF) file or set of files. Large print files are produced in 20-point Arial font and can be printed on standard letter-size (8 1/2 in x 11 in) paper. Some files include inserts that are printed on tabloid (11 in x 17 in) paper. These pages will appear in a smaller font unless you print them on tabloid paper."
- "IRS Accessible Tax Forms (in Braille and Text Formats)," irs.gov Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 15-Nov-2013 - "This page contains accessible versions of IRS tax forms and instructions in text (.txt) and Braille ready file (.brf) formats. Both formats are bundled together in a ZIP (.zip) file. Text files can be opened or read by any program that reads text, including Microsoft Word and Notepad. This format also works well with screen enlargers, refreshable Braille displays, and screen reading software. The Braille Ready File format is a widely recognized form of contracted Braille that can be read with a refreshable Braille display or embossed to produce high quality hard-copy Braille. Some mobile devices can read .brf files using eBook reading software, contact your software developer to find out if your reading software is compatible. These files are for reference only and cannot be submitted to the IRS in this format."
- "Browser-Friendly Publications & Instructions," irs.gov accessed Dec. 31, 2013 Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 29-Oct-2013 - NOTE this goes a URL link path name that says "Kindle," but the "Kindle Reader" is not mentioned in the human readable description! It looks like somebody wrote the HTML pages for Kindle e-Ink Readers and tablets, but then repurposed in tfor the accessibility pages and/or editor realized this was silly to tie a U.S. government site to a specific tablet e0ink Reader, such as Kindle, and ordered any mention of it scrubbed out, but the Website coding had already been done and it was not changed.
- Read Publications online. Find the online (HTML) versions of many IRS Publications
- "Comment on Tax Forms and Publications," .irs.gov accessed Dec. 31, 2013 - "Here's the place to provide us feedback on the content of the products we give you to help you comply with tax law. Caution: If you have a tax-related question, please go to Help With Tax Questions or call our toll-free number at 1-800-829-1040 (Individuals) or 1-800-829-4933 (Business). We cannot respond to tax-related questions submitted from this page."