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Joseph J. Horvatis, headed IRS taxpayer services Aug. 24, 1925 -- April 18, 2007

Joseph J. Horvatis was the man who made the painful process of preparing income taxes more user-friendly at the Buffalo branch of the Internal Revenue Service.

As chief of the Taxpayer Service Division here for nearly 20 years, he was the public face of the IRS in Buffalo in the 1960s and 1970s, and introduced several innovations that helped ease Western New Yorkers through the federal tax forms.

He started the telephone system, which allowed taxpayers to call in their questions instead of having to appear in person. He also inaugurated the Taxpayer Assistance Van, which took forms and IRS tax specialists to serve taxpayers at various locations throughout the area, notably in front of City Hall to accept returns on tax deadline day.

During tax season, he also was a regular guest on John Otto's radio call-in show fielding questions from the listeners.

Mr. Horvatis died Wednesday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst. He was 81.

Born in Buffalo, he graduated from Hutchinson Central High School and served in the Army in the 9th Infantry Division during World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and at St. Lo.

He received the Bronze Star for rescuing comrades behind enemy lines, and the Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered when he stepped on a land mine while storming an enemy pillbox at Monschau. He underwent 13 orthopedic operations on one of his legs and was hospitalized for two years. He was rated 80 percent disabled.

Returning to Buffalo, he began working for the Veterans Administration and attending Canisius College, where he earned a bachelor's degree. Joining the IRS as a revenue officer, he advanced to division chief. After he retired in 1980, the branch established an annual award in his name that is given to employees who provide exceptional service.

A resident of the Cleveland Hill section of Cheektowaga for many years, he built a home in Clarence after he retired. He traveled extensively and was an avid fisherman.

Mr. Horvatis was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.

Surviving are his wife of 58 years, the former Mildred "Mollie" Kirisits; five daughters, Suzanne Tozer, Christine Blackwood, Deborah Zubricky, Cynthia Wintringer and Lisa Brand; and a sister, Teresa McMullen.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, 10950 Main St., Clarence.

[ANDERSON/C]

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