IRS boasts gains from Free File, PC filing

IRS boasts gains from Free File, PC filing

The IRS this week said its online Free File initiative “surpassed expectations,” with more than 2.4 million taxpayers using the free service available through a consortium of preparers.

Acting IRS commissioner Bob Wenzel said in a statement that he expects the word to spread fast about Free File’s ease and convenience.

E-filed returns went up about 10 percent this year compared with 2002, whereas returns from the TeleFile phone service dropped about 6 percent. The largest gain—almost 28 percent—was among taxpayers who sent their own returns from home computers. In addition, more than 9 million taxpayers have checked their refund status online at IRS.gov.

Fulfilling all those requests cut the IRS site’s availability to below 90 percent and raised access time to six or seven seconds late on April 14, said Roopak Patel, senior Internet analyst at Keynote Systems Inc. of San Mateo, Calif. Keynote monitored the IRS home page response time in the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas.

“There was a flurry of users getting last-minute information and downloading tax forms,” Patel said. “It’s a common behavior pattern.”

He said a popular tax-filing site, 1040.com, showed the same pattern a day later, as taxpayers rushed to file before the deadline. For a while, Patel said, the site took more than seven seconds to open over a T-1 line.

In expectation of an e-filing boom, the IRS plans to propose legislation giving e-filers, by 2007, an extra 15 days after April 15 to transmit their returns.

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