Electronic tax filing now the norm

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal


Note: Tax day this year is Tuesday. The Internal Revenue Service and State of Mississippi granted procrastinators a couple of extra days for income tax filing this year because federal office are closed on both the normal deadline and on Monday, which is Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia.

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TUPELO – Curtis and Pam Deason were among the scores of people filing their taxes online at the Lee County Library on Friday.
With four days to go before the deadline to file their 2011 taxes, the Deasons said they weren’t necessarily last-minute filers.
“We’ve had a lot to do,” said Pam. “We just really haven’t had time to until now.”
Curtis, though, has been sick and said his wife has been busy taking care of him.
“But we usually do file online,” he said.
In fact, the Deasons are among hundreds of thousands of Mississippians – and millions across the country – who have ditched the old paper-filing method and e-filed instead.
IRS spokeswoman Dee Stepter said as of March 30, 89 percent of tax returns in Mississippi had been filed electronically, either by tax preparers or by individuals.
That’s up 3 percentage points from last year.
Translated into figures, that means more than 803,000 returns in Mississippi have been filed electronically.
Last year, about 70 percent of returns nationwide were filed electronically, with Mississippi at a slightly higher rate, Stepter said.
The library has seen a steady flow of people filing their taxes since tax season began in February, said assistant director Melissa Holekamp.
“We’ve had a ton of people,” she said.
The library has about 35 computers, and on Friday around mid-morning, half of them were occupied, many of them by people filing their taxes.
For accountants and other tax preparers, it’s crunch time, with or without a computer.
Joe Babb, a CPA with Eaton, Babb & Smith in Tupelo, said he would be busy all weekend filing taxes for businesses and individuals alike.
E-filing has had a positive effect for accountants and tax preparers, he said.
“I think it’s made us more efficient and made it less tedious to file,” he said. “There’s no paper to have to worry about anymore.”
Another reason why the electronic filing number is up is that the IRS recently began requiring firms who file a certain number of returns to only file electronically.
“So we don’t really have a choice,” Babb said. “There are some exceptions, but very few.”
“But the reason why you don’t see the long lines at the post office anymore is because of all the e-filing that’s going on now,” he added.
Stepter with the IRS said e-filing not only saves paper, it saves money.
“It costs something like $3.50 for the traditional paper filing, compared to 15 cents for filing electronically,” she said.
But with two days left to file, there’s not much taxpayers can do at this point, electronically or not, Babb said.
“There are still some things they can do, like fund their 401(k) or certain retirement accounts and get a deduction, but that’s about it,” he said. “But if you haven’t contacted your CPA yet, you might consider letting them file an extension for you. Getting an extension doesn’t give you more time to pay, but it does give you more time to file.”
dennis.seid@journalinc.com