That dreaded post-Christmas gift from the Internal Revenue Service - the IRS package of tax forms and instructions - will be landing in far fewer mailboxes next year.

To cut costs, the IRS sent notices to about 22 million taxpayers who hired accountants or other professionals to prepare their 1992 tax returns. The notices are in lieu of the heftier and costlier tax package, since preparers generally use their own forms or computer-generated forms.A postcard is sent with the notice so that taxpayers who want a full package can order one. The notice also includes a peel-off mailing label that taxpayers or their hired gun should send in along with the completed 1993 tax return, and a "payment voucher" that should be sent in by taxpayers who have a balance due on their income tax.

The IRS hopes to save roughly $3 million in printing and postage costs by sending notices rather than full tax packages to those who hire tax preparers. The agency estimates that it saved $1.4 million from a less-ambitious version of the notification effort last year.

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For the rest of us, 86 million tax packages are already in the hands of the U.S. Postal Service, which is supposed to start delivering them next week.

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