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Information Week

Sites Offer Free Tax-Extension E-Filing

April 17, 2006, Information Week

As Americans rushed to meet the Monday deadline for filing federal income taxes, several Web sites offered electronic extension filing, hoping to capture procrastinators to their tax preparation services.

The six-month extension allows taxpayers to wrap up their returns at a later date, but the tax liability must still be estimated and payment on that liability must be made. The IRS offers a paper version of Form 4868, which must be mailed Monday. (As of Monday morning, Form 4868 was the most requested form from the IRS Web site.)

The Internal Revenue Service lists online tax preparation services on this page, and notes several which provide free e-filing of Form 4868. Among them: TaxAct and eSmartTax.

As of Thursday, April 13, the IRS reported a record 17.6 million taxpayers had filed electronic returns from their personal computers, breaking the 2005 mark of 17.1 million. Overall, online filing was up 15 percent of last year.

"We are seeing the greatest growth for e-file among those filing from a home computer," said IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, in a statement. "We have already surpassed last year's total, and people can e-file, [but] with an extension, until Oct. 16."

According to WebSitePulse, an Orlando, Fla.-based site availability and performance firm, tax preparation sites are weathering the usual last-minute loads.

On Sunday, virtually all the major sites showed a 100 percent uptime rate -- the only exception, said WebSitePulse, was TaxEngine.com, with an uptime of 98.4 percent -- while response times from most sites were as fast, or faster, than the previous 30-day average.

Not surprisingly, the government's IRS Web site had the slowest average response time Sunday: 1.84 seconds. In comparison, TaxBrain.com's response time was three times faster: 0.55 seconds.