IRS proves its mettle in record e-file season

The IRS successfully handled a record volume of electronically filed returns this tax season and managed to identify problems early on and fix them, John Dalrymple, IRS deputy commissioner for operations, said yesterday.

As of Sunday, the IRS had received 59.3 million e-filed returns, 15.9 percent more than last year. IRS estimates it will receive up to 2 million more e-returns by Oct. 15, the deadline for filing under extensions. IRS has already exceeded its e-filing projections of 59 million for the year, he said.

“We’ve proven we can deal with issues,” said Terry Lutes, IRS deputy associate CIO, one of several IRS officials speaking at the Council for Electronic Revenue Communication Advancement’s spring meeting in Arlington, Va.

On April 14, a server that crashed repeatedly prevented the Austin, Texas, center from receiving e-filed returns. The IRS rerouted all e-filed returns to the one other dedicated location for receiving electronically filed returns, at Memphis, Tenn. The center handled the total e-filing volume for half of April 14 through the midnight, April 15, deadline, Lutes said.

Early in the filing season, some electronic return originators—businesses that transmit large numbers of electronic returns—could not test their software with certain regional IRS centers. For the next filing season, the IRS will make the five transmission centers that EROs file to identical, so transmitters can file to any of them, Lutes said.

The IRS will launch in June its next new service for transmitters, offering electronic account resolution, said JoAnn Bass, director, of IRS strategic services. This will allow them to send and receive queries about a taxpayer’s IRS account regarding problems, refunds or installments, if they have a power of attorney on file with the IRS. In mid-summer, IRS will start up its disclosure authorization feature, in which transmitters can obtain an electronic power of attorney, she said.

However, Lutes still wants to increase the number of e-filers who electronically pay taxes owed and sign their returns with an electronic signature. Of 4.6 million e-filers who had a balance due, only 780,000 made an e-payment. And although 10 million more e-filers used an electronic signature this year, 8 million still submitted a paper signature, which is the biggest cost related to an electronic return, he said.

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