Ok, so today’s the day! If you have not yet filed/paid your taxes, you are probably stressed out, dealing with headaches, scrambling to get your paperwork in order. Many people still mail their tax forms and are going to brave long lines and post office traffic to get that April 15 postmark. However, filing your taxes in this day of technology and convenience does not have to be as painful of a process as it used to be, or does it?
If you are blind or have a disability, you have an added stress when filing your taxes. How will it get done? Do I have to hire someone to fill out my forms? If I mail it, I have to arrange for transportation to the post office. Of course I have to get the information from my employer’s forms, receipts and bank statements, some of which I will have to have read to me. I could file on line, but will I be able to do it independently, or will I still need help?
To begin answering these questions, the first place I visited was IRS.gov. They have incorporated accessibility into their process, but you should know where to go to take advantage of these features. First, do not try to view the forms that show up on the home page with a Screen Reader, these PDF’s are not accessible, some read as empty documents and others have unlabeled form fields and it will not be possible to fill them out. If you visit the Accessibility page, you find that they have made forms available in various formats. There are Braille and text versions, as well as talking forms that they give very specific instructions on how to use with JAWS. However, some of these are for viewing only, so you know what information you need to have but you will still need help inputting it into a form that can be submitted. You can leave user feedback, but be warned that the field for your comments is not correctly tagged. It reads “Hours of operation,” where you should fill in your comment.
Then of course you have to pick an EFile company. There are so many choices, but which if any of these will work for you? You can use the IRS tool to choose a company that best fits your needs, but be sure to check or fill in something in each field. If you don’t, it will not give you results and it is difficult to find and correct your mistakes. You are not provided with immediate feedback as to the error or reason that it did not go through. Whether or not you qualify for free filing, there are many websites and pieces of software you can use to leisurely file your taxes. However, according to an article I found on WebAIM entitled, “Accessible Taxes? A Blind Consumer´s Experience with the US Tax System,” many of these conveniences are inaccessible for one reason or another.
Ultimately, you have to choose the best option for yourself, whether to file on your own and deal with the challenges/barriers you encounter, or have someone prepare and file for you. There is some great information on AFB’s Senior site in the form of a short tax guide. Also, Michael McCarty details his experience with TurboTax and his Screen Reader. If you research the issue, you will get many opinions and experiences, so the best way is to give it a try. However, given today’s date, you may want to run the experiment with next year’s taxes!