Why do Revenue still print Paper Tax Returns?

A Dublin print firm has accused the Revenue Commissioners of “economic treason” after the contract to print Tax Return forms was awarded to a Spanish company. This is according to a report in today’s Irish Independent.  The contract is said to be worth €225,000 to the tender winner.

Martin Mansergh, Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, defended the tender award yesterday on RTE’s Today with Pat Kenny radio show, by saying that he was not prepared to engage in “protectionism” to help the Irish print industry.  All contracts over €125,000 must be put to public tender across the EU, and it seems that Irish printers find it difficult to compete for these contracts with larger and more efficient outfits overseas.  The audio link to this discussion is here.

No more paper Tax Returns  - please....!

I cannot help thinking that both the print industry (which, admittedly has shed thousands of jobs in recent years) and the Minister  are missing the point.

There is no earthly reason why, in 2010,  the Revenue Commissioners need to spend hundreds of thousands of euro in printing and distributing blank tax returns.  The Revenue’s own ROS system, which allows taxpayers and their accounants to file returns online,  is a runaway success. As is its revenue.ie website, where all forms & leaflets are available 24/7 for immediate and easy download.  Yet Revenue continues to print tax returns as if the web didn’t exist.

In the past four or five years, every Income Tax return I have filed for my clients has been submitted online via ROS.  Yet each year, the Revenue persist in sending paper tax returns to me for all my self-assessment clients.  Each Spring, a series of large boxes are delivered to the office of my firm. These boxes contain Form 11 income tax returns for each of my clients, each with the client’s name, PPS number and Revenue codes printed on the front page.

These tax return forms, at the same time, are both extremely important (in that each contains clients’ sensitive personal data) and absolutely useless and redundant.  They are also very awkward to dispose of, as their booklet format is not exactly shredder-friendly and for obvious reasons they cannot just be thrown in the recycling bin.  At least my confidential document destruction supplier can earn a few bob by taking them off my hands – and from every accounting firm in the country.

In order to end this massive waste of resources, the Revenue should abandon its policy of printing massive volumes of tax returns.  By  limiting its print runs to cater for the small minority who actually want paper returns, it will save money and, oddly enough, generate some much-needed business for Irish printers.

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