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No taxes via the Net yet

The Internal Revenue Service is delaying a project to let taxpayers file their forms via the Net.

If you were hoping to file your taxes this year through the Web, forget it.

The Internal Revenue Service said today that it is placing its "cyberfile" plan, which would have allowed taxpayers to file their forms on the Internet, on the back burner. The IRS attributed the delay to concerns about the security of data transmitted through public networks.

"There are some security issues that we want to make sure are resolved before we introduce the service to the public," said Larry Wright, head of the IRS public affairs department. "Certainly nobody wants to have the prospect of having their tax records available to someone that isn't authorized to have them."

The IRS's complete revamping of its information technology system is also contributing to the delay. The agency is trying to upgrade from what Wright characterized as a 1960s IT architecture to a 1990s system.

Taxpayers can anticipate trading in the pencil for the mouse by next year's filing season, according to Wright, but he doesn't believe that the change will make the filing itself any easier. "Filing via the Internet is going to be just as complicated as filing by paper," he said.

If you want to vent your frustrations over the delay or anything else tax-related, the IRS also announced that it will "listen" to complaints about agency regulations via email. The electronic messages will be read and filed as suggestions for future regulatory changes, as well as be made available to the public through the IRS Freedom of Information Act Reading Room in Washington.

But don't send email asking whether you can deduct that trip to New York, the agency says. "Sorry, this isn't a place to resolve personal tax issues," one IRS representative said.

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