More taxpayers seem to be filing their federal income taxes electronically and earlier than last year, but some local accountants said it's still too early in the tax season to see major trends.
"I'd say we're running about the same as we did last year," said Dick Bennett, a partner in the Scherer, Harrod & Bennett accounting firm.
"It may be up a little bit, but it's difficult to tell this early."
Of the 1.2 million Kansans the Internal Revenue Service expects to file federal income taxes this year, about 73,000 will file electronically, said Janice Lawrence, public affairs specialist in the IRS' Wichita district office. Last year, abour 45,000 Kansans filed their income taxes electronically.
"As of January 31st, we had over 11,000 returns filed electronically," Lawrence said. "It appears that the total of the electronic filings will be way up this year, with that many this early in the season."
ELECTRONIC filing, available for a fee at several Lawrence tax assistance firms, allows the taxpayer to receive a refund sooner than by filing through the mail.
Lawrence said the IRS currently is taking two to three weeks to process electronically filed returns. Refunds for taxpayers who submit their returns by mail are taking six to eight weeks, she said.
Pat Duerkson, supervisor for H&R Block's downtown office, 16 E. Eighth, said Friday that the number of early filers is up more than 50 percent from last year at the downtown office, which provides services for more than 2,000 residents annually.
"I think people many want their returns earlier this year and they don't want to put it off," she said.
"IT'S A WIDE variety of people who are filing electronically," she said. "Some people just want their returns quickly, other people may be leaving the country and they want to have their refund before they go, and other people may not want to have their refund sent through the mail."
The fee to file an income tax return electronically is $25 to $50, Lawrence said.
The fee is charged by the tax-preparing firm and pays for the costs of a computerized network that enables filers to have their refund directly deposited in their bank accounts, Duerkson said.
Lawrence said the IRS was not experiencing any unusual problems in processing returns so far this year. She said the mailing time for tax refunds probably has not been affected by the increased mail volume for Operation Desert Storm.
"THERE IS a lot of extra mail because of the war . . . but we also have about 400,000 troops who will not be sending their tax returns through the mail," she said.
The IRS has granted an unconditional tax filing extension to all U.S. servicemen and servicewomen serving in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. troops and their spouses living in the United States do not have to file 1990 income taxes until 180 days after the enlisted person has returned from the gulf.
However, spouses of enlisted people serving in the war may expedite their income tax refund by writing "Desert Storm" at the top of their 1990 federal income tax form and on the envelope.
The IRS also is providing various other tax and deferrment services for spouses of enlisted people. For more information, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.