Super ultra mega-secure EFTPS enrollment

(Please note, because of the time that has passed since I wrote this article, it may no longer reflect my current views or the most accurate and complete information available on this subject.)

As an employer, my company Summersault is required to withhold and then turn in federal taxes from our employee paychecks.  In the past we've turned in those withheld funds by printing out a check, walking it a block down the street to the bank, and getting a receipt.

I recently took the IRS's advice and inquired into enrolling in "EFTPS" - Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.  (It's too bad they didn't call it something really cool like "Maximum Velocity Pay" or "Blue Tiger," but I guess EFTPS is at least accurate.)  The idea behind EFTPS is that it will save you time and simplify payment and filing of federal taxes.  So far, here's what the process has involved:

  1. Receiving copious amounts of printed materials sent via postal mail encouraging us to sign up for EFTPS.  There was no obvious option for opting out of these mailings.
  2. Visitng the EFTPS website and "enrolling," which meant typing in a bunch of information that the government already has on file and could have looked up using our Federal Tax ID number, which we also provided.
  3. Receiving an "Enrollment Trace Number" that we had to write down as a second unique identifier in the process.
  4. Waiting 10-15 days to receive a letter in the mail informing us that we've successfully enrolled in EFTPS, and noting that we'll receive a PIN in a separate mailing, for security purposes.
  5. Receiving a PIN letter on the same day as the welcome letter, in identical mailing envelopes, so as to make it especially easy for someone trying to intercept the PIN.  And just noting: that's 10-15 days for them to automatically generate and mail out a 4 digit number.
  6. The PIN letter says that we must now call a toll-free number to obtain an Internet password, which will require the Enrollment Trace Number and the PIN to generate.
  7. I call the number and enter our Federal Tax ID, our enrollment trace number, and our PIN.  The system generates a temporary INITIAL password that we can use to log on to EFTPS for the first time.
  8. As a part of the first login, I enter our Federal Tax ID, our PIN and our temporary password.  To generate a new password, I again enter our Federal Tax ID and our PIN, and then enter a new password.
  9. Finally, we have access to EFTPS.

Sigh.  I hope I never have to see inside the brain of the person who thought up this process.  "If we just make it complicated enough with enough different numbers, no one will EVER be able to crack it!"  Of course, the end result is a sense that the government wasted taxpayer dollars creating and implementing an overly complex system.  Shocker, I know.

Why not a simpler version?  If being able to safely receive postal mail at the address on file for your business is the linchpin of communicating sensitive information securely (which is NOT a given), we could have done it this way:

  1. Visit EFTPS website, enter Federal Tax ID.
  2. Receive postal mailing with a sufficiently unguessable PIN
  3. Visit EFTPS website, enter Federal Tax ID and PIN, pick a password, enrollment is complete.

That's at least one fewer postal mailings (and the paper and postage required), at least one less phone call (and all of the phone menu infrastructure required to support that call), and at least a few minutes saved on the part of EVERY SINGLE FEDERAL TAX PAYING BUSINESS IN THE U.S.

I think I'll suggest it to the IRS.  Via e-mail, subject line: "Proposal for Blue Tiger."

And then I'll probably go back to walking checks down to the bank.

3 thoughts on “Super ultra mega-secure EFTPS enrollment

  1. So... moving forward, will all this effort make future years' tax payments worth it? The overall point is still a good one but in future years, you won't have to do nearly the amount of work you've performed for this first time.

  2. John: the electronic method may indeed yield a time savings over the long run. And who knows how much paper, time, etc. will be saved by not having banks have to accept physical checks as much any more. But because I am just a fanatical blogger, these bits of good news don't dissuade me from proclaiming that everything is broken and if they'd just do it my way, everything would be better.

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