Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

On Senate Floor, Sen. Kaufman Recognizes Great Federal Employee, Terrence Lutes

February 11, 2010

   Mr. KAUFMAN. Now I wish to speak about another great Federal employee.

   Across the country, Americans are receiving their W-2 forms and taking stock of their finances in advance of April's tax filing deadline. For families, the ritual of filing income taxes repeats itself each year, and, admittedly, it isn't very much fun.

   Taxes have been an emotional and thorny subject in American history ever since colonial patriots rallied around the cry of ``No Taxation Without Representation.'' Indeed, though federal tax rates for personal income are low compared to most other developed countries, complaining about paying taxes remains one of our national pastimes.

   This is understandable. It is linked to the strong national attitude in our country that taxpayers' money should never go to waste. When Americans grumble about taxes, I believe it is not because they oppose them in general; rather, it is because they want to make sure that their money is spent wisely, fairly, and without unnecessary waste.

   One of the chief complaints about taxes in years past was that filing was a time-consuming and confusing process. Many can remember those days sitting in front of a pile of forms and receipts, punching away at a calculator, pencil in hand, and a 1040-form covered in eraser marks.

   Thankfully, because of this week's honoree, most Americans--more than 95 million filers--avoided this headache last year by filing their taxes electronically.

   Terrence Lutes was awarded the 2005 Service to America Medal for Citizen Services for leading the development of the Internal Revenue Service's e-File program.

   Terry, who spent nearly 30 years working at the IRS, served as associate chief information officer for IT Services before retiring five years ago.

   E-File not only makes it easy for taxpayers to file online and receive a refund in as little as ten days; it also cuts processing costs by 90 percent compared to paper filing. This benefits the taxpayers two-fold. They save time and energy individually and reduce the amount of their own money spent collecting their taxes.

   Terry, who holds degrees from Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Colorado, first became involved with electronic filing in 1996. As the head of the IRS's Electronic Tax Administration, he became the government's evangelist for online tax filing. E-File had been available for years, but it was costly for the IRS to operate and difficult for taxpayers to navigate.

   While redesigning the e-File system, Terry and his team focused on creating innovative public-private partnerships to reduce--and eventually eliminate--the direct cost to the taxpayer of filing online. He oversaw a workforce of over 6,500 employees, and carefully managed a budget of $1.5 billion. Terry cultivated relationships with software companies and tax-preparation businesses, and the results paid off.

   In 2005, when Terry retired after a long and distinguished career in public service, more than half of all tax returns were filed online for the first time. Today, this number continues to rise. For most Americans, what used to be a stressful experience is now fast, simple, and less expensive.

   Thanks to Terry, the way Americans pay their taxes is forever changed.

   Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., one of the great Supreme Court justices of the early twentieth century, once said that ``taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.'' I am glad to know that great Federal employees such as Terrence Lutes at the IRS continue to work hard every day ensuring that our tax collection system is as efficient and responsive as possible.

   When I go online to file my own tax return this year, I will be thinking of these outstanding public servants at the IRS and all who work in the Federal government.

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