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Published: September 8, 2022   |   Last Updated: October 3, 2022

NTA Blog: Improving Services to Taxpayers With Visual Disabilities

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Millions of U.S. taxpayers are visually impaired and unable to read print material in a standard font size. As a result of a settlement agreement between the IRS and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) on July 10, 2020, the IRS agreed to develop a process for taxpayers to request post-filing tax notices in a variety of acceptable formats, including Braille and large print. (See IRS statement, July 15, 2020.) This settlement resolved a case brought forth by several blind taxpayers and NFB who alleged the IRS was in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits individuals with a disability from being excluded from the participation in, being denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under any executive agency.

Visually Impaired Taxpayers Now Have More Accessibility Options

In January 2022, the IRS implemented a new alternative media process where visually impaired taxpayers can elect to receive certain types of written correspondence in:

  • Large Print,
  • Braille,
  • Audio (MP3),
  • Plain Text File (TXT), or
  • Braille Ready File (BRF).

Taxpayers can make this election either by calling the IRS and making an oral statement, by attaching Form 9000, Alternative Media Preference, to their tax return when filing their taxes, or by mailing a separate signed Form 9000 to the IRS.  Once the taxpayer makes the election, the IRS will place an indicator on the taxpayer’s account so it will provide certain written correspondence in the selected format going forward.

Penalty Relief

If the IRS sends a standard print notice despite the taxpayer’s election to receive such notices in an accessible format, and this results in the taxpayer not taking a required action (for example, making a payment), relief from certain penalties may be available. To obtain the relief, the taxpayer would still need to establish reasonable cause, including providing the following information:

  • Did the taxpayer provide a description of the impairment that prevented him or her from reading the standard print notice?
  • What was the taxpayer’s degree of knowledge about the tax, interest, or penalty owed before receiving the standard print notice?
  • When did the IRS receive the taxpayer’s request to receive notices in an accessible format?
  • If a notice was later sent in an accessible format, did the taxpayer promptly respond to it?

Taxpayers can request reasonable cause relief by calling the toll-free number on their IRS notice or writing a letter to request “penalty relief due to reasonable cause.”

Conclusion

These welcome changes will make the IRS more accessible to visually impaired taxpayers and is yet another step toward ensuring all taxpayers will have equal access to information regarding their taxes and their rights as taxpayers. It also demonstrates the IRS’s goal of improving taxpayer service for all taxpayers.

Additional Resources

 

Read the past NTA Blogs

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the National Taxpayer Advocate. The National Taxpayer Advocate presents an independent taxpayer perspective that does not necessarily reflect the position of the IRS, the Treasury Department, or the Office of Management and Budget.

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