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Is Filing Online Saving Any Time?

With less than a week to go before taxes are due, many are looking to the web in hopes of saving a little time through an electronic filing.

A new report released this morning by Portland-based WebCriteria, Inc., indicates that whether or not you save time depends on where you file.

"The numbers make it obvious that there's a huge disparity in the quality of experience people are going to have filing their taxes online," said Jonathan Moore, WebCriteria's data analyst who ran the report.

Tax-Engine.com led the ranking, making it easiest for customers to complete all the necessary forms and file electronically. The study showed the site at the top of the six sites reviewed with a total filing time of 7 minutes.

Other sites ranked included 1040form.com, EZTaxReturn.com, H&R Block, Tax Act and Taxes1.com.

H&R Block and 1040form.com took the bottom two spots on the list, with a complete filing taking 27:57 and 31:05 minutes, respectively.

According to Alistair Williamson, CEO of WebCriteria, as of February 23 the IRS had received 22.6 million returns electronically, 58 percent of the total received to date. The government hopes increase this statistic, with the goal of recieving 80 percent of all returns electronically by 2007.

The study looked not only at effort time, the amount of time spent actually working on the form, but also factored in build time, the amount of time the site took to load.

According to Moore, the build time is largely a factor of the design of the site, taking into account the time for various forms and graphics to load.

While the sites on the bottom of the list generally didn't contain particularly high effort or build times, they had a significantly greater number of pages each customers needed to fill out. While the fastest two sites had only 13 and 35 pages in the sequence, the slowest had 65 and 95, respectively.

"Tax preparation Web sites exist only because they are supposed to make the act of filing taxes easier online than filling out the form yourself at the kitchen table and putting it in the post," said Moore. "If they cant make the action of filing taxes easier than that, people simply aren't going to use them."

The cost of filing electronically ranged from approximately $15 all the way up to $40, with additional costs for preparation services.



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