More taxpayers use e-filing

More than 60 percent of individual taxpayers filed their returns electronically in the 2008 tax season compared with 58 percent a year earlier, Doug Shulman, commissioner of  the Internal Revenue Service, said in a report released today. Meanwhile, visits to the IRS Web site also reached new levels, in part because of interest in economic stimulus payments, the agency reported.

“The IRS has made great strides in harnessing the power of technology to do its work more efficiently,” Shulman said.

Congress first required the agency to reach 80 percent of returns filed electronically by this year but has extended that target to 2012. Electronic filing promotes accuracy and reduces processing time and costs, IRS officials have said.

Individuals e-filed more than 86 million tax returns as of May 16, 12 percent more than at the same time last year, according to IRS statistics. For all of 2007, slightly less than 80 million returns were filed electronically, the service said.

The increase in e-filing was especially strong among last-minute filers, a group that has traditionally filed paper returns, Shulman said. From April 12 to 18, the number of electronically filed returns rose 28 percent from the comparable week last year, even though the overall number of paper and electronic returns received during the same week was 9 percent higher, he said.

The IRS received 4.6 million Free File returns, a 21 percent jump over last year at this time. Free File, available only on IRS.gov, will continue to accept returns through Oct. 15 from taxpayers with incomes below $54,000.

The Customer Account Data Engine, IRS’ online taxpayer database, has processed more than 30 million individual tax returns this year, more than double the number of returns handled by the system during all of last year. CADE, the foundation of the agency’s modernization of its aging account processing systems, speeds internal IRS processing, providing refunds five days faster on average than the IRS’ previous processing system, Shulman said.

The IRS also found that a small percentage of the increase in e-filing stemmed from taxpayers who were only required to file tax returns this year to claim their federal economic stimulus payments.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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