Seeking To Boost Savings and Safety, One State Eliminates Paper Tax Forms

The federal government had also urged people to file electronically this year as in-person staff were sent home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government had also urged people to file electronically this year as in-person staff were sent home during the coronavirus pandemic. Shutterstock

 

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Missouri will stop printing paper taxes forms and encourage residents to file electronically, which a spokeswoman said most taxpayers already do.

The Missouri Department of Revenue will stop printing paper income tax forms for residents, a move designed to encourage more people to file their taxes electronically.

“The Department of Revenue constantly strives to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and as such, has been moving in the direction of going paperless in all facets of our business,” said Anne Marie Moy, a spokeswoman for the agency. “As we make this shift, we certainly are prepared to offer accommodations to those customers for whom these options are not presently viable.”

Residents will still have the option of filing paper returns, but will have to download and print them directly from the department’s website. Previously, taxpayers could request physical copies of certain forms, which would be sent to them in the mail. 

The change is expected to generate “significant cost savings” in paper and postage, Moy said, and will likely also expedite processing times for customers who are receiving refunds.

“Turn-around times for electronically filed returns are much faster, so our customers expecting refunds will get those a lot quicker if they file electronically,” she said.

The vast majority of the state’s taxpayers already file electronically. According to data from the agency, roughly 13.5% of returns in the 2018 tax year were filed on paper, which decreased to 12% in 2019. 

“It’s important to note that most of those were forms that were printed out by taxpayers from our website,” Moy said, which residents will still be able to do going forward.

The move comes as revenue departments around the country, including the federal Internal Revenue Service, have urged residents to consider filing electronically for safety reasons during the coronavirus pandemic. The IRS, which extended the tax filing deadline earlier this year from April to July, had limited or suspended some services to limit exposure during the virus, including live telephone assistance and the processing of paper tax returns.

Some IRS employees have since resumed in-person work, but overall staffing levels are well below normal levels, so “processing paper tax returns could take several weeks longer,” the agency said on its website. “Taxpayers and tax professionals are encouraged to file electronically.”

More than 90% of federal taxpayers filed electronically this year, the agency said.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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