Paul L. Caron

Thursday, October 14, 2010

IRS Must Now Use 'Plain Writing'

President Obama yesterday signed H.R.946, the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires all federal agencies—including the IRS—to use "writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience."

Here are before and after examples of how the new law will affect the IRS. For more, see "improving communication from the federal government to the public."

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» Congress: You guys speak plainly, but we'll continue to babble gibberish from Roth & Company, P.C.
The Tax Prof reports: President Obama yesterday signed H.R.946, the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires all federal agencies—including... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 14, 2010 7:15:17 AM


Hunh. I agree the "after" is easier to read, but I think that's due to the nicer font and better layout. It's also twice as many pages; I don't think that will help much.

Posted by: great white north | Oct 14, 2010 5:17:45 AM

If Congress wants simpler language, it can enact simpler laws. Take out all the provisions for the special interests and it becomes much easier to use plain language to describe what's going on. Notice that Congress does not subject ITSELF to these requirements? Just as it doesn't subject its hiring, pension, labor, harassment, or other activities to the laws imposed on the rest of the nation.

Posted by: Jim Maule | Oct 14, 2010 6:20:40 AM

I wish this were a national mandate. There are a lot of credit card agreements, laws, books, articles, technical manuals that contain interesting information but are too poorly written to read.

Imagine, a national law that one must write well. I can also imagine a Writing Court... I think France has something like this for the French language.

Posted by: allan | Oct 14, 2010 6:38:11 AM

I basically second the comment by Jim Maule, with a slightly different emphasis.

It's not so much that Congress should use plainer language (they should, of course), but that the law is intended to be precise. Anything that the IRS tries to translate to "English-for-the-rest-of-us" will reduce that precision, unless as the first commenter pointed out they have a lot more space at their disposal.

All in all, quite the challenge.

Posted by: J. Wiedwald | Oct 14, 2010 11:05:47 PM

I'll believe it when I see it. Is this an effort to "help" us, since there's so many new, onerous tax laws becoming effective next year & after? (Like the new requirements for 1099-MISCs?)

And I totally agree with Jim Maule.

Posted by: Lynn | Oct 15, 2010 3:54:42 AM

Um, did anyone notice the 'before' was a CP2000 from 2002 and the 'after' was a CP2000 from 2003? A 7 year old form is not really a good example. Will the CP2000s now be clearer than the already-old 2003 version?

Posted by: Joancpa | Oct 15, 2010 12:42:23 PM