Asking for taxpayer advice

Indiana's Department of Revenue is conducting a Web-based survey to gauge taxpayers' interest in existing and future electronic tax filing programs.

More than 34,000 residents filed their 2000 tax returns through I-File, the state's Internet-based tax program, and revenue commissioner Kenneth Miller says he would like to see that grow to more than 100,000 next year.

Miller's plan to boost participation could include an "e-check" service, which would allow taxpayers to debit their checking account to pay taxes without writing a check. It would be an alternative to using their credit cards online, which makes some people uncomfortable.

But state officials are not clear whether e-checks are more appealing. The survey will help them measure the public's "comfort level" with online services, Miller said. "We have to know who our customers are — we work for them," he said.

The survey, available on the department's Web site (www.state.in.us/dor/index.html)and highlighted on the state's main Web page (www.accessindiana.org), asks participants to indicate which online services they have used through the state's Web site and, in particular, what experience they have had with I-File.

To boost participation, the state is e-mailing the survey to people who have used I-File and sent in comments in the past.

But the survey also serves as a way to promote I-File to people visiting the state's Web site, said Krista Hayes, a marketing executive with Indiana Interactive Inc., which manages AccessIndiana under a contract with the state's Intelenet Commission. "There is a whole marketing twist to the survey," Hayes said.

The 34,000 returns filed through I-File this year represented a 31 percent increase from last year, but accounted for only 1.2 percent of Indiana's total tax returns. More than 700,000 state residents filed their taxes using E-File software, either on their own or through tax professionals.

Another 500,000 filled out and mailed in forms from the state Web site that included 2-D bar codes, which automate returns processing. Finally, about 71,000 people filed through the TeleFile program.

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