January 19, 2004
Tim Connolly
(617) 626-2369

CHELSEA -- Massachusetts is poised to return more than $1 billion to taxpayers in refunds that will average more than $400 apiece.

Department of Revenue Commissioner Alan LeBovidge kicked off the 2003 tax refund season today in the DOR command center at the Massachusetts Information Technology Center. DOR's computers and processing staff are ready to handle 3.3 million personal income tax returns that will be filed between now and the April 15th deadline.

While this time of year is often associated with paying taxes, it is actually a period when 7 out of 10 taxpayers get money back from the state. The quickest way to receive a refund is to file a tax return either by computer or telephone. The average turnaround time for electronically filed returns is 3½ days.

"It really is the refund season," LeBovidge said. "We'd like to get that money back into their hands as quickly as possible. That's why we say E-file, E-file, E-file."

Taxpayers who file paper returns will have to wait longer for refunds. In January and March the turnaround time for paper return will be measured in weeks. As March turns into April, taxpayers may wait months for their refund.

"We see the move to electronic filing as a win-win," LeBovidge said. "The taxpayer is happy because he or she gets their refund fast. We're happy because we have less paper to deal with and we save the Commonwealth money on processing. Last year we received over 2 million paper returns, 1 million of those were received in the final three days before the deadline."

Some taxpayers, especially those with uncomplicated finances, can still choose to file their state return using Telefile. The 8-minute phone call is the easiest way to claim a tax refund. To check the eligibility requirements call 617-660-2002 or 413-827-7100.

Taxpayers who prepare their own returns can visit DOR's website at www.mass.gov/dor to get links to commercial software for filing taxes, or they can purchase software at a retail store. Many Massachusetts taxpayers will qualify for a free tax filing with several of the software makers. Eligibility varies. For example, one software company is offering a free file to any taxpayer who is:

  • eligible for the federal earned income tax credit;
  • 62 or older;
  • 22 or younger;
  • or on active military duty.

Taxpayers should check the website for details.

Taxpayers who have their returns prepared by an accountant or tax service company can ask to have their forms submitted over the Internet. Taxpayers who prefer to mail their returns can still improve the turnaround time on a refund by having their tax preparer use software that contains two-dimensional bar codes. These returns, prepared on a computer, printed and mailed, can be scanned by DOR and converted to an electronic return in seconds.

"Certainly the best routes are to use the computer or the telephone, but for those taxpayers who still want to use paper, make sure you use software that contains 2-D bar codes," LeBovidge said. "On our website, we list all the software companies that offer 2-D technology."

For more information or assistance, taxpayers can visit the DOR website, www.mass.gov/dor or call 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts, 800-392-6089.