National effort by WS, IRS spurs rise in online tax filing

WASHINGTON: A majority of Americans filed their taxes electronically this year for the first time, thanks in part to a nationwide publicity campaign by the IRS and Weber Shandwick.

WASHINGTON: A majority of Americans filed their taxes electronically this year for the first time, thanks in part to a nationwide publicity campaign by the IRS and Weber Shandwick.

Gail Ellis, the IRS' director of marketing, said the campaign to persuade taxpayers to "e-file" included live radio interviews, PSAs, website promotions, and article placement in trade journals. The IRS spent $350,000 on PR promoting e-filing last year, in addition to $8.3 million on traditional advertising through Foote Cone & Belding.

Bert Dumars, director of electronic tax administration for the IRS, said his team is partnering with private tax preparers like H&R Block for cobranding opportunities. It also has targeted software companies that sell to professional preparers, using live webcasts.

Dumars said that e-filing saves a good deal of money for the IRS and simplifies the process for taxpayers. "This is the most efficient way to do the tax return process," he said.

The IRS is aiming for 80% e-filing of all returns by 2007. As of April 13, 63% were electronic for this year.

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