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Only 1 in 5 NH taxpayers file taxes by mail

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 22. 2014 1:30AM

Glen Peace of Manchester picks up his tax forms at Manchester Public Library on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Glen Peace braved heavy snow last week to pick up paper tax forms at the Manchester City Library rather than stay home and file his tax return by computer.

"Pen and paper," the Manchester carpenter said. "It hasn't failed me yet."

Peace is among the 1 in 5 New Hampshire residents still filing by paper and snail mail.

Every year, more Granite Staters - both by percentage and gross numbers - are filing their tax returns electronically.

In 2011, New Hampshire saw 77.5 percent of individual tax filers doing so electronically. That number is projected to rise to 80.9 percent this year and to 82.9 percent in 2019. The state is projected to lag the national rate by 1.3 percentage points this year and 1.7 percent in 2019. The national rate beat New Hampshire by 0.2 percent in 2011.

This year, 572,900 Granite State residents are projected to e-file out of 708,300 total individual returns. The e-filings are nearly equally split between the taxpayer and a tax preparer doing the actual filing.

IRS spokeswoman Peggy Riley said e-filers make fewer mistakes and receive their money quicker.

"People filing electronically can expect their refund in two to three weeks depending on whether they choose direct deposit." Riley said in an e-mail. "If you were to file on paper, it can take six to eight weeks to get your refund."

No matter how you file, the deadline is April 15.

Riley said the October government shutdown delayed IRS prep work, pushing back the date when the IRS started accepting returns.

"We were a couple of weeks behind, so we didn't start accepting returns until Jan. 31," Riley said in a telephone interview from New York.

She said the IRS no longer mails tax booklets to taxpayers' homes and distributes tax forms to fewer locations.

"Some of the post offices and libraries stock them; a lot of them are not stocking them," she said.

The Manchester City Library, however, continues to offer forms.

"I do a lot of reordering," said Amy Hanmer, the city librarian in charge of government documents, including IRS forms. She joked by calling herself a "stockboy for four months."

And she noticed those picking up the forms aren't accustomed to the building's layout.

"They seem to be people who don't use the library on a regular basis," Hanmer said. "A lot of elderly come in to get them."

So far, Hanmer noticed more people picking up 1040EZ forms this year.

"I know a lot of young people like to do it online," she said.

"We do get people who want to use TurboTax to do it online" using the free library computers, she said.

Bob Bourgeois, a licensed tax preparer in Nashua, said he prepares more than 300 returns a year, and all of them must be filed electronically.

"People are coming in slower this year," said Bourgeois, owner of R.P. Bourgeois & Co.

"The month of February, everyone wants a refund," he said. "It's like a bank."

But things change when the calendar flips.

"In March and April, it's how much am I going to pay," he said.

The average refund was $2,458 for Granite Staters in 2012, the most recent year available.

Riley said the IRS this year modified how it will assist some taxpayers in filling out their tax forms for free.

"We made the decision not to offer tax preparation this filing season at any of our walk-in sites primarily due to the steady growth of electronic filing options and the availability of thousands of volunteer sites," Riley said in an e-mail.

"We encourage taxpayers to take advantage of our Free File program on and tax preparation through our IRS-certified volunteers nationwide," she said.

"To minimize the impact on those who came to a Taxpayer Assistance Center last year for return prep, we sent them a postcard advising them of this change and encouraging them to use Free File or" use a volunteer income tax assistance program (VITA) site.

Another option is visiting a site that is part of the tax counseling for the elderly (TCE) program, which offers help mainly to people 60 or older.

The VITA program helps people who make $52,000 or less prepare and file their tax returns for free.

The TCE program offers help mainly to people 60 or older. AARP is part of the TCE program and helps taxpayers with low-to-moderate incomes.

"These are generally the same requirements as previously used for return prep in IRS offices, so the same population can be helped at volunteer sites," Riley said.

Volunteer sites prepared more than 13 million returns last year as compared to about 65,000 e-file federal returns that were prepared at our walk-in sites.

But some people continue going it alone.

Peace, who noted he's computer literate, said it takes him about a half hour to fill out his 1040EZ form.

"I'm very good with numbers," he said.

Peace picked up forms not only for himself but also for his dad, Paul.

"I'll let him do it, and I'll look it over," he said.

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