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Last-minute filers can still be 'early' by e-filing

More Minnesotans have filed their income taxes before Tuesday's deadline than last year.

The incentive of being in the "first wave" of recipients for the federal economic stimulus payment may be one reason why there's been a 7.4 percent increase in early returns, said Carrie Resch, media spokeswoman for the IRS office in St. Paul

Those who have their tax returns filed and processed by Tuesday will get their rebate checks from May 2 to 16.

Returns that are processed after Tuesday will get their rebate checks between May 16 and July 11.

Even at this late hour, it is not too late to be an early filer.

Resch said tax returns that are filed electronically -- even on Tuesday -- will be processed in time to qualify for the first stimulus payments, if direct deposit is requested.

Taxpayers who put paper tax returns in the mail today or Tuesday, however, will be in the second wave of payments.

While that may be enough of an incentive to e-file, said Resch in a recent telephone interview, other incentives are the "peace of mind" the IRS has received your return, quicker refunds -- with direct deposit -- and increased accuracy.

For people who file paper returns there is a 20 percent error rate. For e-filers, she said, there is a 1 percent error rate.

The error rate increases for paper returns during the last-minute rush to meet the April 15 deadline. "We do see more mistakes at the end of the season," Resch said.

Common mistakes include using the incorrect table or chart, making mistakes in math and failing to claim income tax credits that the filer is eligible to receive.

"And believe it or not," said Resch, "people do forget to sign and date their returns."

The e-file software "catches a lot of those errors," she said.

Last year about 71 percent of Minnesotans filed their returns electronically, putting it neck-and-neck with Iowa for the top e-filing state in the nation.

So far this year, she said, of all the returns filed in Minnesota, eight out of 10 have been e-filed.

Typically, about 70 percent are e-filed by professional tax preparers. But Resch said there's been a 15 percent increase so far this year in the number of returns that have been e-filed by individuals.

Resch said software is available to help people e-file independently. That service is available for free to people with an adjusted gross income of $54,000 or less.

The service can be found at

Filing electronically also saves the government money. Resch said it costs $2.87 to process each paper return. It cost 35 cents to process an electronic return.

"If we're saving money, taxpayers are saving money," she said.

If you're one of the tax-filing procrastinators, Resch said you won't be alone. She said 25 to 30 percent file their returns in the last week.

Taxpayers can request an extension to file their returns, but Resch said a payment with the estimated tax payment must be sent with the extension request.

Resources for last-minute tax filers

Need assistance with last-minute tax preparation?

The IRS has information on their Web site:

They also have a toll-free telephone number: 1-800-TAX-1040. People will be on hand 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and 7 a.m. to midnight Tuesday.

To find a nearby Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site, call 1-800-906-9887. Most VITA sites offer free services to individuals or families whose income is $40,000 or less.

People who are 60 and older are eligible for free help at Tax Counseling for the Elderly sites operated by AARP.

The special hotline for questions about economic stimulus rebate checks is: 866-234-2942.