Tax filers jumping on the e-train

Electronic filing of tax returns is running 9 percent ahead of last year, the IRS said today in its weekly countdown to April 15.

Through Feb. 27, more than 33.5 million returns have been e-filed by telephone, home computer and through tax professionals, about 3 million more than this time last year. Nearly 7.7 million taxpayers have prepared and filed returns on their home computers, a 23 percent increase from last year. Tax professionals have submitted more than 23 million e-filed returns, a 7.2 percent increase from the previous year (see story here).

“More and more taxpayers are learning it’s an easy way of reliably filing tax returns. And e-filers get their refunds in half the time of those filing a paper return,” said IRS Commissioner Mark Everson.

So far, the IRS has received more than 1.9 million returns through its Free File program, 24 percent more than last year when the program was introduced. Free File is a public-private partnership between the IRS and a consortium of tax software companies that offer free e-file services to eligible taxpayers.

Free File, which is available only through IRS.gov, gives taxpayers free access to online tax preparation and e-filing. Each private company sets its own eligibility requirements for the Free File program. The IRS hosts the Free File Web page, but the online tax preparation occurs on the companies’ Web sites. The companies file the returns using IRS’s secure e-file transmission system. .

Average refunds have increased by 4.4 percent, or about $94 more than last year. The number of direct-deposit refunds has climbed 9.3 percent ahead of 2003 to nearly 28 million.

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