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IRS delays tax forms two days even troops in desert get them


WASHINGTON -- Whoever said tax collectors aren't big-hearted?

Your 1990 federal income tax forms will be mailed to you Dec. 28, two days later than usual, "basically to move it away from the Christmas holiday, allow folks to enjoy it as long as they can before we throw a wet blanket on them," said Art Altman, IRS director of tax forms.

Merry Christmas from the IRS.

The big winners from this year's tax-form changes will be about 4.5 million retirees who claim no itemized deductions. This year, for the first time, they may file an adapted short form, the 1040A, instead of the regular 1040 long form.

The new short form "has larger type, simpler instructions . . . so they should have a simpler time filing," Altman said. The Internal Revenue Service redesigned the short form for elderly filers, he added, because "We were finding that many people were taking the old 1040A and entering their retirement income on the wrong line . . . they were forcing our hand."

This year's big losers, by contrast, will be the soldiers in Saudi Arabia, who will be sent tax forms to add to their other burdens. They may find some small consolation, however, from an IRS decision to extend their filing deadline until July 15.

The IRS or Congress also may make that extra two-month grace period interest-free as well, Altman said. And if war erupts, IRS may grant the soldiers indefinite extensions, "but we're not at that point yet," Altman said.

For most Americans, however, the 1990 forms contain few changes. Personal exemptions for taxpayers, their spouses and dependents all have been raised to keep pace with inflation, up to $2,050 each this year from $2,000 in 1989.

Standard deductions also have been indexed to compensate for inflation; the one for single taxpayers, for example, rises to $3,250 from $3,100.

Basic tax rates remain the same -- 15 percent and 28 percent -- but the income levels to which those tax brackets apply also have been indexed to compensate for inflation. This indexing is built into the tax tables and tax-rate schedules.

Don't worry -- yet -- about how to calculate all the tax-law changes passed by Congress in October as part of the new five-year federal budget agreement. Virtually all of those changes apply to income earned in 1991 and after, and therefore do not affect these 1990 tax forms, Altman said.

About 70 percent of all taxpayers will get refunds, IRS estimates. Last year's refunds, averaging $900 each, went to more than 76 million taxpayers.

One way to help assure that refunds come without undue delay, Altman said, is to use the preprinted address labels IRS includes in its tax-form packages. Those labels help avoid mistakes made when taxpayer-identification information is entered manually, which slows processing, Altman said.

IRS will mail about 97 million tax packages to taxpayers. Another 11 million taxpayers -- those who filed farm or business schedules last year using tax forms provided by commercial tax preparers -- will get only a postcard with a label, Altman said. That will save IRS about $1 million in processing costs, he said. Postcard recipients can obtain a full tax package by asking for one.

Tax forms also will be available at many banks, post offices and libraries. Anyone needing forms other than the ones included in their tax packages can either visit their local IRS office or call a new toll-free phone number: 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).

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