WASHINGTON: Last week the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) launched YouTube and iTunes sites to share information about economic recovery provisions, tax scams, and other issues of interest to the American taxpayer.
Previously, IRS videos were featured on partner Web sites, such as those for the American Payroll Association and The National Association for the Deaf. The current IRS Web site does not have video capability, according to Terry Lemons, communications director at the IRS. Only audio was featured on the IRS.gov Web site.
However, according to Lemons, the agency sees the importance of expanding beyond its own and partner sites, into social media, which prompted it to launch the new capabilities August 21. The agency is also exploring the use of Twitter.
“We see a lot of value in things like YouTube to get information out to people about things that can really put money in their pockets,” he said, adding that the agency touches a “broad spectrum” of people and social media can be facilitator for engagement. Videos are also available in Spanish and American sign language. Spanish-language podcasts will be available on iTunes in the coming weeks.
However, Lemons said the agency is focused on using social media channels that will help meet its goals rather than simply “pursuing the flavor of the month.”
“We have to take a very broad view of communications,” said Lemons. “With tax issues, there are a lot of details involved, a lot of complexity to them. Video is not going to be the solution for every tax issue. But since we touch so many different people, we want to have a lot of different channels.”
The continued foray into digital media coincides with the increasing number of taxpayers who file their annual forms electronically. Lemons said that about two out of three people file electronically.
Still, Lemons said there are many taxpayers who still prefer receiving their tax form in the mail or want to avoid contacting the IRS directly, preferences the agency has to take into account in its outreach efforts.
“We see things like YouTube as a way of supplementing out traditional communications areas,” he added.