The number of Kansas taxpayers who are filing their federal income taxes electronically probably will exceed the Internal Revenue Service's expectations for the second year in a row.
As of Thursday, 59,960 income tax returns had been filed electronically by Kansas taxpayers, said Janice Lawrence, public affairs specialist in the IRS' Wichita district office.
The figure is the most recent compiled by the IRS, she said today.
With a little more than three weeks remaining before the April 15 filing deadline, the rate of electronic filings is well on the way to exceeding the IRS' estimate of about 73,000 electronic filings this year, Lawrence said.
Last year, when electronic filing first was available to Kansas taxpayers, about 45,000 taxpayers filed electronically. This year's filings surpassed that number in mid-Febuary, Lawrence said.
She and local income tax preparers attributed the increase in electronic filings to a better-equipped IRS filing system, greater public awareness and shorter turn-around time for refunds.
ELECTRONIC filing, available for a $25-$50 fee at local tax preparation firms, allows the taxpayer to have a refund paid directly into a checking or savings account.
The fee, which is charged by the tax preparer, pays for the cost of a computerized network that handles the electronic returns.
Currently, electronic returns are taking 2 to three weeks to process. The turn-around time on returns filed by mail may be six to eight weeks, Lawrence said.
Pat Duerksen, supervisor for H&R Block's downtown office, 16 E. Eighth, said Friday that the number of electronic filers at her office is up 30 to 40 percent from last year.
"I think the IRS has been staffing their electronic filing centers better this year," Duerksen said. "It seems to be going fairly smooth."
THE IRS' electronic filing center for Lawrence is in Ogden, Utah, Duerksen said.
Last year, she said, the electronic filing system wasn't operating as smoothly because the IRS was not prepared for the number of taxpayers who took advantage of the service.
Although taxpayers who file electronically have a speed advantage and don't have to worry about their returns getting lost in the mail, some local tax preparers said the service doesn't benefit all taxpayers who expect to receive refunds.
"I kind of feel like it's a waste of money unless you're getting a huge refund and you have to have it real fast," said Charlene Garzillo, a local tax preparer who operates an in-home business.
GARZILLO, who does not offer electronic filing services, said the $25 to $50 cost of electronic filing is a large amount relative to a $100 or $200 refund.
"If you're only getting a refund of $100 or $200, that (cost) is quite an amount of interest," she said. "You can get that kind of interest from a loan shark."
Bob Schehrer, a partner with the firm of Schehrer, Harrod and Bennett, Ninth and Massachusetts, also said many of his customers did not take advantage of electronic filing.
"You can only use that service with some of the simple (tax) forms," he said.
Schehrer said many of his clients file their income taxes using several complex forms, which cannot be filed electronically.