Thursday, October 14, 2010

IRS Must Use “Plain Language”

Yesterday, President Obama signed H.R. 946 the Plain Writing Act of 2010. This new law requires all federal agencies to use “writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.” A rather long-winded way of saying, “write so humans can understand what you mean.”

The bill originated from the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), a group of federal employees from a variety of agencies and specialties. Their purpose is to get our government to communicate in ways we can all understand. A lofty goal, no doubt, since our government and the agencies within it seem to get some sick pleasure from creating nearly incomprehensible, unnecessarily verbose documents (to see some examples of the difference in using plain language as opposed to “governmentese” click here).

This law also applies to the IRS, which means every letter we receive from the IRS from now on should be brief, on topic and easy to understand, right? Well, I guess we’ll all see about that. posted an example of an IRS letter from before the law was enacted and what they think a letter would be after the law is enacted. I guess the “after” letter is easier to understand, and makes the pertinent information more obvious, but what was previously a 7 page letter is now an 11 page letter. Does this sound like it simplifies things at all?

What do you think, will using Plain Language make it easier for us all to understand what the heck our government is doing? I want to hear your thoughts on Twitter. Use #plainlanguage tag to weigh in.

(Hat tip Tax Professor Blog)

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