Taxpayers shy from sharing info online

Survey on taxpayer habits

A majority of taxpayers still feel insecure about sharing personal financial information online, but they are comfortable with shopping online, a new survey found.

Released today by the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board, the survey shows that 73 percent of 1,000 taxpayer households strongly/somewhat agree that they were not secure in sharing personal financial information via the Internet, even if the information was going to a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service. The top reason — cited by 46 percent of 742 respondents — was concern that the Internet was not secure. Thirty-seven percent said they were not confident their privacy was protected, and 6 percent feared identity theft.

But 51 percent of all respondents said they are comfortable shopping and purchasing items online, according to the survey.

The number of respondents who file taxes electronically was almost evenly divided: 48 percent had, 49 percent had not. As of Sept. 15, 55.1 percent of tax returns were electronically filed — about 72 million of 131 million processed returns, according to the Government Accountability Office.

IRS.gov is the most popular portal to contact the IRS. Forty-one percent of the survey’s respondents said they had contacted the IRS in the past two years, and of those, 25 percent reached the IRS via its Web site. Four percent said they had sent the IRS an e-mail message.

According to the report, 22 percent said they had called the agency, 6 percent had sent the IRS a letter via mail and 3 percent had visited an IRS office in person.

The oversight board conducted the survey to better understand taxpayers’ preferences for getting assistance from the IRS.

The study’s findings should help the agency focus its customer service resources, said board Chairman Paul Jones. Providing the services that taxpayers expect can boost compliance and help shrink the tax gap.

“The survey dramatically illustrates that one size does not fit all when it comes to IRS customer services,” he said.

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