More filing their taxes early, online this year

Taxpayers are filing earlier, doing it on their own, and getting more money back from Uncle Sam. That’s the story so far this tax season, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

More than 81,000 people have filed paper returns in New Hampshire this year and another 227,963 have filed electronically, according to IRS spokesperson Peggy Riley. That compares to 68,709 paper returns and 212,900 electronic filings through the end of February 2008.

“The online filing is becoming more and more popular,” Riley said. “It’s really simple to do. It makes the whole system more efficient.”

The early filings “may be a sign of the times,” Riley said. If people are losing income, it’s possible more of them qualify for refunds than prior years, she said.

“People that get refunds tend to file earlier. People who owe money tend to wait until the end of the period,” Riley said.

Filing electronically also gets a taxpayer his or her money faster. Refunds can be automatically deposited in 10 days with an electronic return, compared with three weeks with a paper return or six to eight weeks with a paper return and paper check, Riley said.

More people are also preparing their own taxes than last year, according to IRS data. More than 118,000 have filed on their own, 52 percent of those who filed electronically in New Hampshire, compared to 109,646 who hired tax professionals.

That compares to barely 100,000 who filed on their own, 47 percent of electronic filers, in 2008.

Nationwide, the IRS has issued almost 3 percent more refunds than this time last year but seen a 7 percent increase in those choosing to have their refunds issued through direct deposit.

The IRS has received 56 million returns, slightly more than this time last year, Riley said, and the average return was $2,869, $232 more than last year, an increase of 9 percent.

IRS officials said the average refund will likely go down as the filing season goes on since new benefits such as first-time homebuyer credits and deductions for real estate taxes likely encourage early filings for those who qualify.