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IRS offers filing by phone to Florida

Telephone tax filing is coming to Florida next year as part of IRS efforts to become more taxpayer friendly.

Sandra Angus, chief of the IRS taxpayer service division in Jacksonville, said the option will be available to Florida taxpayers who qualify to file the simplest of all returns _ the 1040EZ _ and who have Touch Tone telephones they can use to punch in the necessary numbers.

As many as 1-million Florida taxpayers could be eligible for telephone filing. To use the EZ form, you must be a single taxpayer with no dependents, have taxable income below $50,000 and have no sources of income except wages, salaries, tips or taxable interest of less than $400.

Telephone filing got its first big test in Ohio this year when about 126,000 taxpayers filed by phone. The IRS decided to expand telephone filing to Florida and six other states in 1994, said Angus.

Telephone filing speeds up processing and reduces IRS costs, but does not eliminate paperwork entirely, Angus told members of the Florida Society of Enrolled Agents, who were meeting Tuesday in Clearwater Beach. Taxpayers who owe money still will have to fill out a simple form and send it in with a check, she said.

Angus and other top IRS officials in Florida told the tax preparers that the agency is attempting to eliminate paperwork wherever it can.

"We were a paper factory," she said. She said the agency is now much more willing to take statements by telephone to straighten out a problem instead of requiring everything to be in writing.

Angus says IRS employees also have been given greater authority to release refunds, abate penalties, correct math errors and solve other problems on the spot.

"We can make changes on line (in IRS computers) while you stand there or wait on the phone with us so you don't have to come back," she said.

However, the friendliness only goes so far.

The IRS is continuing to go after people who haven't been filing their returns, said Jarold Kaufman, assistant chief of the examination division in Jacksonville. Kaufman says 80 examiners in Florida are assigned full time to pursuing non-filers.