January 29, 2013
By: Neil Downing 

Massachusetts Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter is invoking an iconic TV show to introduce a new Department of Revenue website, which she says will make it easier to find tax information and help residents file state income tax returns electronically at no charge.

Known as "The Filing Zone," the site's introductory video is a spoof of the opening for the popular 1960s TV series The Twilight Zone, which featured tales of suspense, horror, and science fiction. (As of January 28, the website could be accessed at http://www.mass.gov/dor/thefilingzone.)

"Behind this door lies the key to another dimension," an off-screen voice intones. "A dimension of time. Of facts. Figures. And helpful information. You've just crossed into . . . The Filing Zone." The video segues into the DOR's 2013 filing season update.

"We know many taxpayers dread this time of year," Pitter said in a statement. "We thought branding the page with references to the TV series would be a way to help relieve their anxiety while the page features will help get them through the filing process as quickly and as painless as possible."

The page provides statistics updated daily on the number of returns processed and the turnaround time for electronic and paper refunds. It also includes information on filing deadlines and other items.

"I think it's great that they do this kind of thing online," partly because it saves practitioners from attending conferences, said Terry Durkin, owner of Durkin Associates and immediate past president of the Massachusetts Society of Enrolled Agents. "I like their humor, with the spoof of The Twilight Zone, and their use of social media."

Durkin told Tax Analysts on January 28 that the website provides "a fairly good overview for the current filing season."