IRS ramps up online services

The taxman is coming, and the Internal Revenue Service is offering a host of new electronic features for taxpayers, including a new e-service called "Where's My Refund" on IRS.gov.

For the first time, taxpayers will be able to track the progress of their tax returns online, checking to make sure their tax returns were received and their refunds are on the way.

And more than 60 percent of all taxpayers will be able to prepare and electronically file their tax returns for free on the Internet as part of a private/public partnership hammered out between the IRS and a consortium of private companies last year.

"The IRS makes history this year with new electronic services for taxpayers. We want to make it easier than ever for taxpayers to get help, and IRS.gov does just that," said Bob Wenzel, IRS acting commissioner, in a statement issued Jan. 2.

This week, the IRS begins sending out more than 38 million tax packages and 25 million electronic-filing brochures to help taxpayers navigate this year's filing season. The new services are part of a multiyear, multibillion modernization project to turn the paper-based agency into an electronic one.

Among the electronic features this year:

* Taxpayers can pay taxes electronically by authorizing a withdrawal from a bank account or using a credit card.

* Taxpayers can file electronically before April 15 and schedule the withdrawal on that date.

* Taxpayers can call a toll-free hotline to find out the status of their refund.

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