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Electronic tax filing catching on in Md.

April 01, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

An increasing number of Maryland residents, including Washington Countians, are filing their state and federal tax returns electronically, which is exactly what government officials say they want.

James Dupree, IRS spokesman for Maryland, said last week that more than 55 percent of federal tax returns filed so far from Maryland have been filed electronically. That is an increase of about 10 percent over last year, he said.

Almost 47 million taxpayers filed their tax forms electronically last year, and the IRS expects the number to increase to about 54 million this year, IRS officials said.

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The IRS hopes that 60 percent to 70 percent of taxpayers will file electronically this year, Dupree said.

The government is endorsing electronic filing of tax returns because it is more accurate and faster for taxpayers, he said. The programs people use when filing electronically reduce the possibility of math errors on the tax forms, Dupree said.

"It is easy, it is fast and it is safe," said Christine Duray, state spokeswoman for the Maryland Comptroller's Office.

About 20,000 Washington County taxpayers filed their state tax forms electronically as of March 25, a 15 percent increase compared to the same time last year, she said.

Taxpayers who file their federal forms electronically get confirmation of the filing within 24 hours and the refund, if they get one, can be placed directly in their bank accounts within about 10 days, Dupree said.

It also is easier and faster for IRS employees to process electronic returns, he said.

The IRS has partnered with 17 companies that make tax preparation software in developing a program called Free File. The program, available through the federal Internet site, lets some taxpayers file for free if they meet certain eligibility requirements relating to age, location, income and other factors, he said.

The Internet site is at www.irs.gov.

The Internet site has had about 1.4 billion hits so far this year, he said. There are 5,000 forms and publications available through the Internet site and about 200 million copies of the forms have been downloaded, Dupree said.

People also can use other tax software, he said.

So far the average taxpayer is receiving a refund of about $2,000, which is a 2 percent increase over the refunds at this time last year, Dupree said,

However, that average will drop as the April 15 tax deadline approaches, he said. Usually, taxpayers expecting refunds file returns earlier than those not getting refunds, according to Dupree.

Taxpayers can check on the status of their federal refunds through the IRS site or by calling 1-800-829-1954.

The federal and state spokespeople suggested taxpayers see if they can get free tax help before they pay for help.

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