Heartened by the presence of a new ally in the White House, the Commission on Federal Paperwork yestereay aimed its lance at three of the most despised government forms.
In its first meeting since the inauguration of Jimmy Carter, an avowed enemy of the government paper glut, the commission approved recommendations to simplify income taxform 1040, environment impact statements and the Federal Trade Commission's line-of-business reports.
Whether these recommendation or any of 20 others adopted yesterday will have any impact is an open question.
The commission, created by Congress in 1975, has no power to enforce its proposals other than "the moral force of a good idea," according to Sen. Thomas J. McIntyre (D-N.H.), a commission co-chairman.
In its first 16 month the paperwork unit has dispatched 245 recommendations to Congress and executive agencies. McIntyre said the effect has been "sort of lukewarm" because "there are some pretty tough nuts out there in the agencies."
McIntyre and co-chairman Rep. Frank Horton (R-N.Y.) expressed optimisim yesterday that things may change now that President Carter, who complained again this week about "the extremely great overload of paperwork," has taken charge.
Their spirits rose when the commission's newest member, Office of Management and Budget Director Bert Lance, showed up for Yesterday's meeting and pledged that the Carter administration "will make very kuick inroads into this problem of paperwork."
Observers familiar with the commission say that former OMB Director James T. Lynn took little interest in the project and occasionally seemed openly hostile to it.
Lance promised that "I'll be a working member of this commission." He appeared two hours late and was present only for the meeting's closing minutes.
Among the commission's targets yesterday was schedule F of Internal Revenue Service form 1040, which requires detailed information from farmers on all their expenses and sales.
The commission staff sound that one-third of the taxpayers required to complete the form make less than $2,500 annually from farming. Yet the form is more detailed and time-consuming than those required of taxpayers making far more in other businesses.
The commission also found that about 8 million form 1040s are filed each year by taxpayers who do not have to do so.
Certain persons who file a return only to receive a refund are permitted to file a short, simple form instead of the more involved 1040. The commission said IRS has not adequately informed the public about the simpler alternative.
The commission recommended that IRS reduce the paperwork burden on low-income farmers and on taxpayers filing just for a refund. IRS Commissioner Donald C. Alexander, a commission member, said his agency will "take a close look" at the suggestions.
The commission's recommendations on environmental impact statements are directed more at the difficulties involved in preparing the statements are directed more at the difficulties involved in preparing the statements than at the enormous length to which many statements have grown.
The group suggested that federal agencies establish uniform impact statement regulations so that environmental statements prepared by each federal department will contain the same types of information in the same format.
The commission also recommended that regulations should permit the statements to cover some potential impacts by reference to other publications. Many agencies currently list every conceivable environmental impact in such statements, adding considerably to their bulk.
The FTC line-of -business report is a survey of about 450 conglomerates that seeks to determine information about each individual product the firm manufactures.
About 100 companies have sued the FTC on grounds that the form is excessively burdensome and goes beyond the agency's authority.
The commission suggested that the FTC and the affected businesses form a joint committee to seek a means by which the information could be provided without undue time and expense.
The commission also considered a three-part form devised by the Office of Education which colleges must fill out when their studens receive federal grants; the Defense Department form DD 250, which weapons contractors must fill out in 12 copies, and a plan to reduce the number of pages of the Department of Commerce publication, Commerce Business Daily, by about 2,000 per cent.
The Paperwork Commission has 14 members drawn from Congress the executive branch, state and local governments and the private sector.
Although it was formed to reduce government complexity, it has already taken on the trappings of a fullfledged government agency.
It has a staff of 179, a 5.5 million annual budget, a full public relations staff and its own letterhead. For yesterday's hearing, the commission had a stenographer take down every word and a photographer record the session for posterity.
And it has large quantities of paper. The commission's study of environmental impact statements ran to 132 pages. A report on the Employee Retirement Security Income Act ran to 66 pages. For yesterday's hearing, the staff produced 22 "position papers" and six "information papers" to aid the members in their deliberations.