IRS News Release  
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 IRS.

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 filing requirements.

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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