Filing an individual paper tax return becomes outdated this April as Puerto Rico switches to compulsory electronic filing in a move that is expected to save the Treasury Department up to $5 million in expenses, according to one of its top officials.
Already, the first e-filings are trickling in.
As of February 26, more than 60 e-filings — out of an anticipated 900,000 plus individual tax returns — had been received, said Assistant Secretary of Internal Revenue Víctor Pizarro.
Starting Monday, Treasury will begin opening service centers where people can get help filing electronically as well as have access to computers to file their returns. No information was available on how many new computers the agency had to buy to meet expected demand, or the cost of this investment.
In all, there will be 17 tax centers providing services to the public with opening hours that will extend as the tax deadline draws nearer.
Pizarro said a million-man hours go into processing all the tax forms Treasury gets each year, work that requires hiring extra personnel at an additional cost to the agency of around $10 million.
Electronic filing, he said, will not eliminate this cost as there are 17 exceptions that allow individuals to file a paper return and besides, corporations also file paper returns. However, it will reduce the cost by between $4 million and $5 million, he said.
“The island has matured to transition to compulsory e-filing,” Pizarro told News Is My Business, pointing to the increased number of electronic filings the agency is now receiving.
Out of the 926,951 individual returns filed in 2015, 57 percent (or 527,904) were filed electronically and the balance (or 399,047) was in a paper format. According to Pizarro, e-filing has been around for nearly a decade and in recent years most taxpayers are using this option which is why Treasury has now decided to make it compulsory.
Taxpayers can file electronically through one of five online tax preparation websites, including Taxmania, Planilla Plus, PRsoft, Tributa Org and Aim Corp. Pizarro said these companies are certified by the Treasury Department to provide the service free of cost although they may offer optional services for an additional fee.
Pizarro said Treasury is paying these companies under $2 million to provide the free service.