Tax agency requests deadline extension for electronic filers

Terry Lutes

To lure more taxpayers to file their returns online, the agency wants to extend the electronic-filing deadline from April 15 to April 30.

'This is the biggest ticket of growth' for e-filing, said Terry Lutes, IRS director for the Electronic Tax Administration.

The move was called for in the Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2002. The House passed HR 586 earlier this year; it is awaiting approval by the Senate.

'We are confident that the Senate will approve the extension,' Lutes said.

He cited an IRS study indicating that 5.8 million taxpayers who filed online in 2000 switched back to paper filing in 2001. The research also showed that more taxpayers chose tax practitioners who prepared returns or filed for extensions on paper.

The IRS received a record number of returns online in 2001, when 40.2 million taxpayers filed via the Web, but the agency's leaders are concerned that millions who had filed electronically the previous year went back to paper.

'These factors are disturbing,' Lutes said. 'Analysis shows that once people make decisions about tax returns, they stick with it.'

Lutes said the agency wants to work with IT companies to implement EZ Tax Filing, a program to let taxpayers file individual returns electronically.

Start in 2003

The project, which has a budget of $52.7 million this year, is one of 24 e-government initiatives highlighted by the Office of Management and Budget. The IRS wants to begin using the system next year.

Additionally, the IRS plans to let businesses file taxes online by next year, Lutes said. The IRS also will format Form 941, for quarterly tax payments by businesses, in Extensible Markup Language to promote Web filing.

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