Maryland offering online tax payments

Maryland residents, long experienced at filing taxes electronically, will

now be able to make tax payments electronically as well.

The state last week signed an agreement with Stamford, Conn.-based Official

Payments Corp. (OPC) to make the service available to taxpayers via the

Internet and over the telephone.

"It's just to offer another option to taxpayers," said Mike Golden,

spokesman for the Maryland comptroller's office. "We're just trying to make

it as convenient for the taxpayer as possible."

Taxpayers can pay by credit card by visiting www.officialpayments.com or

calling toll-free at (888) 2PAY-TAX. The company will charge taxpayers a

"convenience fee" — 2.5 percent of their tax payment — for processing the

transaction. For instance, a resident, who owes Maryland $900 and pays through

the service, would be charged an additional $22.50, for total payment of

$922.50. American Express, Discover Card, MasterCard will be accepted.

Thomas Evans, chairman and CEO of the 4-year-old company, said the option

is attractive to taxpayers for several reasons. The service is convenient;

taxpayers can defer payment by putting it on a credit card; or they can

earn airline frequent flyer miles, cash-back rewards or other incentives

a credit company may offer its customers, he said.

OPC offers electronic payment options to more than 550 municipal and county

entities and provides similar services to Arkansas, California, Connecticut,

the District of Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Minnesota and

the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Evans said more people are charging their tax payments online and by telephone.

In California, he said the service increased 800 percent in dollar volume

from 1999 to 2000. He said federal tax payments through his company increased

fourfold during the same period.

Maryland residents, Golden said, have been filing taxes electronically for

the last 10 years. Online filing has been available the last two years.

Usage has been "growing by leaps and bounds," he said, adding that 400,000

individuals filed electronically last year.

Maryland's fiscal 2000 ended June 30. Tax payments for the fiscal year are

due between Jan. 1 and April 16, 2001. Evans said the system should be up

and running by then.

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