Your E-Filed Taxes Saved IRS $195M (and Counting). But Post Office Not Thrilled.

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Yesterday we reported that nearly eight of every 10 tax forms received by the IRS by early April was sent electronically. This put members of the United States Postal Service in the position of another blue-uniformed figure with little to do: The Maytag repairman. With the late-evening Tax Night postal rush now a thing of the past, the only San Francisco post office to remain open until midnight was the airport branch.

Yet the post office's loss is the IRS' gain. Oakland-based IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Henrie-Brown confirmed that the tax people spend $2.87 to process every return filed on paper via the post office but only 35 cents to process e-files. Naturally, the IRS is ecstatic about the ascendancy of e-filing. According to IRS figures released yesterday, 77,395,000 of the 98,802,000 forms filed by April 9 had been sent electronically (77 percent). Doing some quick math, that's $195 million in savings for the Internal Revenue Service.   

This isn't a zero-sum game, but there are winners and losers. And while the IRS eagerly looks forward to the day paper tax returns join rotary phones, corsets, and smoking sections, these are dark days for the aforementioned postal workers. The writing is also on the wall for the seasonal workers who process IRS returns at massive, warehouse-like facilities. That being said, it doesn't appear the IRS has shed too many workers despite the dwindling number of paper returns.



Take the IRS service center most readers likely sent their returns to (or didn't; you probably e-filed). That'd be Fresno -- zip code 93888; we know that one by heart.

While it only processed returns from California and Hawaii in 1978, it now handles individual returns from 24 different states. In fact, while there were 10 such centers in 2000, now there are only four: Fresno, Austin, Kansas City, and Atlanta. But while there are fewer centers, the higher workload means each one employs more people -- so it ostensibly evens out.

Still, if the IRS gets its way, its seasonal jobs may join lamplighters, telegraph operators, and print journalists on the scrap heap of history: "Electric is the way to go," says Henrie-Brown. 



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