SAN FRANCISCO – In years past, on a certain mid-April day at midnight, a mad rush of stressed-out taxpayers would descend on the local the post office.
Those days appear to be waning.
Of those still brave enough to do their own taxes, 17% more opted to file their return via the Internet this year, the IRS said Friday.
Out of a total of about 73.4 million filed through March 24, more than 50 million were filed electronically. Almost three-quarters of those were filed by professional tax preparers.
But fully 14 million e-filed returns were clicked in to the IRS by individuals who do their own taxes. That's up almost 17% from the 12 million who did so at this point in the filing season a year ago.
"The increase in e-filing is really being driven by people using their home computers," said Mark Everson, the IRS commissioner, in a written statement. "E-file is the safe, accurate way for taxpayers to quickly finish their taxes and get a refund."
Counting the work done both by pros and do-it-yourselfers, e-filing is up 2.6% this year through March 24, compared with a year earlier.
Still, a hefty portion of the more than 23 million filers who mailed in their return the old-fashioned way so far this year are using computer software. It's just that they're opting to print out and mail in their return, said Nancy Mathis, an IRS spokeswoman.
"The majority [of taxpayers] use computer software or a tax preparer to file their return electronically," she said in a telephone interview.
"But there is a ... group of people out there who use the tax software and then fail to take the next step," she said. That may be because they have a tax bill due and they prefer to hold on to the return until they mail in the money, closer to the deadline.
It doesn't have to be so, Mathis said. "One of the nice things about filing electronically is you can file your tax return today and then set a payment date for April 17, which is the deadline this year for most people."
Still, while e-filing might make doing your taxes easier, that doesn't mean it's actually easy, if visits to the IRS.gov Web site are any indication. Almost 90 million visitors have flocked to the Web site so far this year, up 7.1% from about 84 million a year ago.
The average refund amount rose to $2,344 so far this year, from $2,261 in the same period a year earlier.
Copyright (c) 2006 MarketWatch, Inc.