Huzzah for convenience! Americans can now download their tax returns directly from the IRS. Previously, citizens had to slog through a questionnaire and wait 5-10 business days for a physical form through snail mail. I tried out their new service today and, after spending about two minutes answering security questions, I was able to download three years worth of tax information.
“I am very excited to announce that the IRS has just launched, this week, the ‘get transcript’ application which will give taxpayers the ability to view, print, and download tax transcripts,” said Katherine Sydor, Advisor at Office of Consumer Policy at the Treasury. Sydor made her announcement at the White House’s education “Datapalooza,” a gathering of hackers and policy leaders to jam on how open government data can help solve the nation’s education ills (Video link, ~1:37:00)
As is becoming tradition at the White House, the newly launched feature has some bugs. I had to re-register after I couldn’t log in a second time. The IRS asked me for a “user name,” which it never told me; when I tried retrieving it with the “forgot user ID” function, the website encountered an error. A minor bug, but it’s not helping the White House shake its tarnished reputation.
One would think that downloading tax returns would not be novel in 2014. But, the software tax industry has spent millions lobbying the government not to design its own interface. Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, reap heavy rewards from being one of the only web apps for filing and retrieving tax information.
Still, despite the lobbying, it seems the IRS can still make some progress in open government. Check out the Get Transcript web app here.