When Americans Really File Their Taxes

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – If you haven’t yet filed your taxes this year, you’re in very good company.

Nearly half of Americans (41%) waited until the final four weeks of the tax season last year to file their 2009 returns, with 27% opting to file in the final two weeks before April 15, according to data provided to MainStreet by TurboTax. The number of people who waited until the homestretch to file this year is likely even higher.

“We’re seeing more and more people file their taxes in the final two weeks of the season,” said Bob Meighan, vice president of TurboTax.

In part, this can be attributed to the fact that the filing season was delayed for several weeks to account for changes in tax law, but according to Meighan, consumers are also submitting returns later because of online tax filing options. Though there have always been those who waited until the final minutes, new e-filing options have made it easier than ever for procrastinators to delay.

“Just a few years ago, people had to paper file, a process that required you to mail your returns off and get it certified,” Meighan said. “That all takes time.”

Online tax tools, on the other hand, expedite the process by helping users organize and fill out the necessary paperwork, not to mention the fact that the return is submitted to the government instantly via its e-file service. But while technology may drive some taxpayers to further delay submitting returns, it’s not the only reason.

According to Meighan, taxpayers tend to file more promptly when they know they will get a refund, but when taxpayers know they will owe money, they are more likely to delay and hold onto the money as long as possible.

Indeed, the TurboTax data, which is based on surveys of more than 5,000 TurboTax users, shows that more than a quarter of Americans file in the first four weeks of the season, right after they get their forms from work, presumably eager to snatch up their refunds. After this, there is a lag until the very end of the season when taxpayers grudgingly file their returns at the last minute.