From the outset of the 2014 tax-filing season, the IRS strongly encouraged taxpayers to file their federal individual income tax return electronically versus mailing a paper return to the agency. And based on the most recent filing-season data released by the IRS on Friday, that’s exactly what a majority of Americans did.
Of the more than 131 million returns the IRS has received as of April 18, nearly 116 million returns, or roughly 88 percent, were e-filed – whether by a tax professional or from a home computer. The number of e-filers is up by about 3 percent over this time last year, when nearly 113 million of the 130 million tax returns the agency received were sent electronically.
Also, almost 46 million returns were e-filed this year from home computers, which eclipsed the total for all of 2013, according to the IRS. Approximately 70 million returns were e-filed by tax professionals as of the newest data.
Even IRS Commissioner John Koskinen skipped going to the post office this year and, for the first time, filed his prepared return electronically.
“I remember you just didn’t want to be at the post office on the 14th or 15th. Now, whenever you’re ready to file, you just file,” Koskinen told the USA Today. He added that when all is said and done, e-filings are expected to reach 85 percent of total tax returns – “a new American record.”
At the start of the millennium, e-filing made up 23.5 percent of total tax returns, a little more than 30 million. By the end of 2014, the IRS expects that number to reach more than 125 million, according to the USA Today.
Even though e-filing became available for the first time in 1986, it was 16 years before the process became entirely paperless.
“The transition since then has turned the cumbersome task into one that can be accomplished with the click, or tap, of a button,” Hadley Malcolm of the USA Today wrote. “And it's significantly cheaper. In 2011, the most recent year for which the IRS has data, e-filing cost the agency 15 cents to process; paper returns cost $3.50. Plus, e-file has cut down on mistakes, the IRS says. The error rate associated with e-filed returns is 1 percent, compared with a nearly 20 percent error rate for paper returns.”
The biggest benefit to taxpayers who use e-file is a quicker refund, especially for those who have it deposited directly into a bank account, according to the IRS. As of the latest data, more than 76 million of the almost 95 million refunds issued by the IRS have been direct deposited, up nearly 1 percent over last year.
Taxpayers can continue to use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website to check the status of their refund.