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More residents filing returns electronically

March 17, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

The ability to file by home computer is driving the surge in Maryland residents choosing to file their state and federal income tax forms electronically, Internal Revenue Service and Maryland State Comptroller's office representatives said during a stop in Hagerstown on Wednesday.

Electronic - or paperless - filing by Marylanders is up 28 percent for state returns and 15 percent for federal returns over this time last year, said IRS spokesman Domenic J. LaPonzina and Maryland tax department spokesman Michael D. Golden.

"It's fast. It's convenient. And it's safe," said Golden, who said the 222,321 electronic state filings received have already exceeded last year's total by 254 returns.

Nearly 40,000 Maryland residents have filed their federal returns online using a home computer, according to LaPonzina.

That's 150 percent more than were filed by personal computer last year at this time, he said.

For the roughly 75 percent of filers due a refund at both the federal and state levels, electronic filing means they can expect the money in their hands in at least half the time as with a paper return, they said.

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More than 224 taxpayers in Washington County and 667 taxpayers in Frederick County have filed electronically, either through a professional preparer or using a personal computer, Golden said.

It's the first year Maryland residents have been allowed to file their state return using a home computer with state-approved software, he said.

So far, more than 12,000 people have chosen the option, Golden said.

If taxpayers take advantage of another new option at the state level - direct deposit into a bank account - they only have to wait two to three days for their refund, he said.

Direct deposit also hastens refund turnaround at the federal level, though not as dramatically as at the state level, LaPonzina said.

A taxpayer filing electronically and electing direct deposit can expect a refund in less than two weeks, compared to about five weeks for a paper filer who doesn't choose direct deposit, he said.

The fact that average federal refunds are $200 higher than last year is likely fueling the increase in electronic filing, LaPonzina said.

There are three electronic filing options at the federal level: Through a paid preparer, by home computer or, for those who qualify to use a 1040EZ form, over the telephone using the TeleFile system.

Lower-income taxpayers can get the necessary software to file from a home computer for free through the IRS and Maryland State Comptroller's office Web sites.

Those who exceed the income cap are charged a nominal fee.

The IRS Web site is at www.irs.ustreas.gov.

The Comptroller's office Web site is at www.marylandtaxes.com.

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