Aside from excessive taxation and a penchant for heavy-handedness, the IRS is also notorious for something else: Giving a 10 word answer when a 1 word answer is adequate.
An example is found in an IRS article titled “Topic 301 – When, Where and How to File”. People want to know when, where, and how to file their income tax returns. Rather than creating something simple, the IRS backs up the information dump truck and unleashes a multitude of information. You can find Topic 301 at: www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc301/.
Oddly enough, they don’t include information about WHERE to file your taxes (even though the title suggests it).
Here’s how I would have written this same document:
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When should I file?
The deadline to file income tax is April 15th (or the first business day after April 15th if it falls on a weekend). Your paperwork and any taxes owed are due on or before that date. If you don’t file and pay on time, the IRS will assess penalties and interest against you unless you have reasonable cause for the late filing or paying. . You can view those in a list here. (Then I’d link to a list).
How should I file?
You can file your taxes in several different ways:
- Mail it to the address that came with your return.
- Drop it off at your local IRS office. (Then I’d link to a list of local tax offices).
- File it electronically here: http://www.irs.gov/efile/
Don’t forget to attach all of your forms! (Then I would include a list to the required tax forms) If you owe back taxes, you may have more options than you realize, and you should contact a licensed tax professional before contacting the IRS to avoid wage and bank levies.
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That’s it! I said in less than 140 words what it took the IRS 1216 words to say. Not only that, I answered the questions that most people are going to want to know when they search for those answers. And, I offered a place for people to go if they indeed had further questions.
Here’s something that everyone in the world knows (except the IRS, apparently). Giving people good information is not about giving them more information than they could ever possibly use. It’s about anticipating what most people want to know and providing links to more.
Another tip that they might consider is to use a clickable table of contents at the top of each page. That way, when someone clicks on a link and they see more text than in War and Peace, they won’t skip it and call the local tax office (which is a huge waste of taxpayer’s money).
Unfortunately, the IRS isn’t known for its efficient use of your tax dollars. The IRS should avoid creating an overly complicated website that adds too many layers of information.