Ohio residents try electronic returns

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- More than 1 million Ohio residents filed tax returns this year by phone or computer, according to the state's Department of Taxation.The vast majority of those returns were filed by computer as Ohio in 1999 accepted electronic filing for the first time.

Russell Strope, a programmer/analyst supervisor in the Department of Taxation, attributed the program's success largely to private tax practitioners, such as H& R Block, which have made electronic filing a major initiative because they already do most of their work on computers.

Ohio started accepting tax filings over the telephone three years ago, but the state held off on computer filing until this year, despite its broad acceptance in other states. "It just takes so long to implement new technology...just to get the 'warm and fuzzy' feeling' that the technology is reliable and secure," Strope said.

But pressure from tax practitioners and a new tax administrator helped push the state into making the change, he said.

-- John Stein Monroe (john_monroe@fcw.com)

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