LANSING (AP) — An increasing number of Michigan residents
are filing their income tax returns electronically rather than by
mail, which could cut down on the number of people racing to the
post office to beat today’s deadline.

As of Monday, the state has received 2.2 million tax returns
filed electronically, up from 1.4 million at this time last year,
state Department of Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton said
yesterday.

“We’re 51 percent ahead of where we were last
year,” he said. “That obviously is great news. It
reflects the growing popularity of e-filing.”

A big part of the increase in e-filing is a rule implemented in
January by the Department of Treasury that requires tax preparers
to file returns electronically if they handle more than 200.

The change was intended to help the department handle the loss
of $2.7 million cut from its budget. Without the rule change, the
department would have had to hire temporary workers to process
paper returns.

The Department of Treasury expects 2.9 million returns will be
filed electronically. If the department gets that number it would
mean that 60 percent of all returns were filed electronically,
Stanton said.

Regardless of the method taxpayers use to file their returns,
the state always has a rush in the last week before the deadline.
This year it’s midnight tonight.

Approximately 1.4 million returns were filed during the last
week with 1 million expected to come on the last day, or about 20
percent of all returns, Stanton said.

The department is two weeks behind where it was last year in
processing paper returns, which means it’s an average seven
weeks for a refund on those returns, Stanton said.

“We’re right in the middle of this huge crush and
that has slowed things down,” he said. “Once
they’re no longer coming in droves, the processing will pick
up.”

That delay for a refund is longer than the typical four-to-six
week wait for paper returns. But it’s a little bit better
than the situation in February when the department reported an
average wait of eight to 10 weeks for a refund on a paper return.
The state’s tight budget kept the treasury from hiring 200
temporary workers to handle the paper returns as they had in past
years to get refunds out in the usual four to six weeks.

Ron Marabate, who works for the Michigan Economic Development
Corp., was at the downtown Lansing post office yesterday afternoon
to mail his tax payment.

“I’m not too late,” said Marabate, of Okemos.
“I’m not going to rush to make a payment.”

As of April 7, the Department of Treasury processed 2.7 million
returns and about three-quarters of those were filed
electronically, Stanton said.

The state expects about 5 million tax returns will be filed this
year. It has taken in about 3.4 million returns so far, leaving
between 1.4 million and 1.6 millions yet to be filed, Stanton
said.

So far the average refund has been $406, $18 higher than last
year’s average, Stanton said. He attributed the increase to a
combination of slower income tax growth and more rapid property tax
growth.

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