Home e-filers continue to surge

Taxpayers are increasingly filing their returns electronically this year using their home computers. Nearly 10 million returns were self-prepared on a home computer and submitted through e-file as of March 19, an increase of 22.9 percent over last year.

'Home computer users are on a record pace to use e-file this year,' IRS commissioner Mark Everson said.

Taxpayers have filed a total of 68.2 million returns, 43 million of which were returned electronically, an 11.4 percent advance over last year. Tax professionals have also e-filed 10 percent more than the previous year. Filing by fax has declined.

The IRS Free File program has received more than 2.4 million returns, 24 percent ahead of last year. Free File is a partnership between the IRS and a consortium of tax software companies that offer free e-file services to eligible taxpayers and is available through the www.IRS.gov Web site. Each company sets its own eligibility requirements for the Free File program. The IRS hosts the Free File Web page, but the online tax preparation occurs on the companies' sites. The companies file the returns using IRS's secure e-file transmission system.

The IRS also took another step in eliminating paperwork for professional tax preparers in a rule that allows practitioners to retain and furnish to taxpayers copies of their returns in electronic format. Previously, tax regulations required that practitioners manually sign the copies of returns they prepare. Provisions were changed in 1996 to allow preparers to electronically sign the returns. The new rule removes references to manually signed copies for taxpayers and for record keeping.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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