It’s tax time again, and people are filing


Staff reporter

For many taxpayers, the deadline for submitting individual tax returns is a long 89 days away.

The Internal Revenue Service, however, has already mailed 38 million tax packages and 25 million electronic filing brochures in preparation for the April 15 federal income tax filing deadline.

Even on little, remote Whidbey Island, it’s time to get cracking before the IRS comes looking for its due.

Whether taxpayers use professional tax preparers or do it themselves, the 2003 tax filing season could be a little easier in terms of the time needed to pay Uncle Sam. Taxpayers can find expanded free “e-filing” options on the IRS Web site, reduced tax rates, more deductions and fewer forms to file according to an IRS press release.

Judy Monahan, a spokeswoman for the IRS, said the service estimates about 132 million individual returns will be filed this year. She said the IRS is hoping a good portion of those filers choose to do their taxes in a paper-free way by using the service’s Internet e-file program. This year, 78 million people will be eligible to prepare and electronically file tax returns. Information on the “Free File” program will be released Jan. 16 at

In 2002, 47 million tax returns were filed through IRS e-file. Monahan said the IRS expects to receive 54 to 55 million tax returns by e-file this year.

“Our goal is 80 million by 2007,” said Monahan.

That goal is not just for the convenience of the IRS. Monahan said taxpayers will benefit as well through faster tax refunds. When e-filed returns are combined with direct deposit, she said, a refund could be deposited in a taxpayer’s account within 10 days. By comparison, a paper-filed return could take up to six weeks.

For those doing their tax returns the old way and who wait for their checks to arrive, a new service allows taxpayers to check on the status of their refund. To check, visit the “Where’s My Refund” section on the IRS Web site, or call the refund hotline at (800) 829-1954.

Most crucial in pursuing refunds are deductions, of course. Monahan said the most common itemized deductions were charitable and medical, but over two-thirds of Americans take a standard deduction.

Chuck Edwards, a certified public accountant for Edwards & Moore in Freeland, said popular itemized deductions among his South Whidbey customers are mortgages, property taxes and charitable contributions.

For those who won’t be using a tax preparer, there is help. Two free workshops will be given weekly on South Whidbey to prepare seniors and moderate-income taxpayers for the April 15 deadline.

Every Friday, starting Feb. 7, workshops will be held at the Bayview Senior Center from 9 a.m. to noon, workshops at which tax payers can meet with trained tax assistants to wade through IRS forms and tax laws. The workshops will continue though April 11.

Every Wednesday, beginning Feb. 5 and going until April 9, similar workshops will be held at the Freeland Public Library from 1 to 4 p.m.

Help will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis, and taxpayers are advised to bring last year’s tax returns and the documents needed to complete their taxes.

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