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Jolt Of Electronic Filings Jump-Starts ‘98 Tax Season

Sat., March 21, 1998

More U.S. taxpayers filed their tax returns electronically this year as the early filing season jump-started faster than last year, H&R; Block Inc. said this week.

Block reported that its tax preparers handled nearly 8 million tax returns during January and February, or 5.7 percent more than during the same two months last year.

Of those, some 6.5 million returns, or 22 percent more than last year, were filed electronically, Block reported. Both the company and the Internal Revenue Service are trying to encourage taxpayers to file electronically.

Through March 6, some 13.3 million U.S. taxpayers filed standard electronic returns this year, up nearly 22 percent from a year ago.

So far, 45 million taxpayers have filed returns, which is about 0.4 percent fewer than were done at the same time last year, the IRS said.

Of those, 31.1 million have received refunds, which are averaging about $1,450 per return so far this year, the service said.

Want a bargain? Check out cash

The stock market has risen 10 percent in the year’s first 10 weeks. While that pace is exhilarating, it’s also frightening - which is why this is a good time to check your portfolio to make sure you have enough cash.

Right now, cash is a big bargain. While inflation is barely more than 1 percent, three-month T-bills are yielding a little more than 5 percent, for a real return of almost 4 percent - while the historic real return on stocks is 6.6 percent. Buy T-bills through your bank, broker or directly through the Treasury or local Federal Reserve offices.

Times updates stock list

The New York Times has updated its list of favorite stocks, which are defined as the 16 stocks owned by the most accounts at Merrill Lynch. The new list is based on holdings at the end of 1997, replacing a list that was based on holdings on May 31, 1996.

New stocks on the list are Ameritech, Coca-Cola, Compaq Computer, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft. They replace Airtouch Communications, Disney, Motorola, U S West and Wal-Mart.

The companies remaining on the list are AT&T;, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, Exxon, GTE, General Electric, Intel, IBM, Lucent Technologies, Merck and SBC Communications.

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