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Computers make IRS filing less taxing

e-site and user
If you can file your return electronically, you're more likely to make the deadline  

April 14, 1999
Web posted at: 9:43 p.m. EDT (0143 GMT)

(CNN) -- With the April 15 tax deadline looming, procrastinators traditionally run to the post office to mail their forms before the last moment allowable.

But this year, more people than ever are dashing to their computers -- instead of their post offices -- to file their taxes on time.

The Internal Revenue Service, encouraging electronic tax returns, says taxpayers filing electronically are more likely to make the deadline.

"Electronic filing is very practical right up to the last minute, because you are going to get your return in quicker. You don't have to worry about a line at the post office," IRS spokesman Anthony Burke says.

Filing electronically also cuts down drastically on the error rate, according to the IRS.

The federal tax agency says that last year, 21 percent of paper returns had errors, either produced by taxpayers or IRS processors. But electronic returns had an error rate of less than 1 percent.

Electronic filing can be done by phone, with software on a home computer, by an authorized IRS e-file provider, or directly on Web sites.

But the service is not for everyone.

"It's great for a 104OEZ. It's even not bad for a regular 1040," says Eric Grevstad, editor-in-chief of Home Office Computing Magazine. But "once you get past the basic forms, the electronic infrastructure really isn't quite there."

There can be glitches. One software package, TurboTax, was unable to file returns electronically for more than 14 hours recently.

But for taxpayers, the conveniences seem to outweigh the problems. Electronic returns this year are currently up 24 percent over last year. Money owed can be paid by check, direct debit from a bank, or for the first time by credit card by calling 1-888-2PAY-TAX.

Tax experts say the tax software can also save money. The programs use a series of questions that help users find deductions they might not have considered.

CNN's Marsha Walton contributed to this report.

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February 5, 1999

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