Forget about hybrid cars, how about hybrid tax forms?

The IRS is testing a hybrid paper-electronic form that uses bar codes to encode information placed on the form. Adobe Systems Inc. is supplying the bar code technology.

The bar codes will be used on three forms that appear on a CD of forms the agency will send out to tax practitioners, said Paul Showalter, senior publishing analyst in the IRS' Media and Publications Division.

The bar codes are embedded on electronic forms rendered in Adobe Portable Document Format. As a PC user fills in each field of a form, the bar code of that form automatically updates itself to encapsulate the information. When the user finishes filling out the form, the bar code holds all the keyed-in information. The user then prints, signs and mails the form to the tax agency.

The IRS can capture the data from the bar codes using standard industry bar code readers and scanners. The agency's service centers have been preparing their systems to read the information, Showalter said.

The information, which is embedded in an Extensible Markup Language format, can be routed to a database or processed by an application, said Lori DeFurio, an Adobe developer evangelist. DeFurio last month demonstrated the technology during a Washington workshop.

The amount of room the bar code takes on a form is proportional to the amount of data it is designed to hold. The forms the IRS is piloting are modified Schedule K-1 versions of forms 1041, 1065 and 1120.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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