Electronically filed tax returns tick up

Roughly 93 percent of the tax returns the International Revenue Service received during the early part of this year’s filing season were sent electronically, according to a new federal report.

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Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration said Wednesday that some 62.2 million returns were filed electronically through March 7, out of about 67.1 million overall. The deadline for submitting taxes was Tuesday.

That’s a slight uptick over the 2013 filing season, when 92 percent of the returns were sent electronically.

The Treasury inspector general also found that the IRS had issued roughly $164 billion in refunds by early March, a 6.4 percent increase over the previous year. Plus, the IRS prevented about 87 percent of fraudulently claimed refund dollars from being sent out, the inspector general says.

“The filing season at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is critical because it is during this time that most individuals file their income tax returns and contact the IRS if they have questions about specific laws or filing procedures,” said Russell George, the tax administration inspector general, who will deliver a final report on the filing season in September.

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, has already cast the filing season as a success, as the agency tries to move beyond the targeting controversy that’s enveloped it for more than 11 months.

This filing season, the IRS had to deal with a string of tax changes from the "fiscal cliff" deal signed early in 2013 and from President Obama’s healthcare law. The start of filing season was also pushed back 10 days, following last October’s government shutdown.

“I think it’s important to realize what a tremendous accomplishment it is for the agency to process 150 million individual taxpayer returns every year,” Koskinen said at the National Press Club this month.

“This doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen automatically. It happens because thousands of dedicated and experienced employees work for months planning for the next filing season and then administering it”.

Koskinen has said that he wants to help congressional investigators finish up their inquiries into the agency’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups, but also saw his agency get sued by both the Tea Party Patriots and the Republican National Committee on Tuesday.