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How big is the tax code, 2012 version

IRS expects to process 239.3 million tax returns in 2012

The Internal Revenue Service usually issues weekly statistics during filing season. The details include not only how many returns the agency has received and processed, but also the numbers on electronic versus traditional mail filings, as well as the size of tax refunds, directly deposited or snail mailed, that have been issued.

Those figures haven't been posted this filing season. The latest individual filing data report on the IRS site is for the week ending Dec. 31, 2011.

That the IRS hasn't been forthcoming with 2012 filing season stats is not that surprising given all the trouble the agency has had processing returns and delivering refunds.

But that hasn't stopped one IRS group from making projections about the volume of tax returns expected to be handled in 2012.

The IRS Statistics of Income Winter 2012 Bulletin says a grand total of 239.3 million tax returns are expected to be filed during calendar year 2012. This number, says the IRS, represents an increase of 1 percent from the estimated calendar year 2011 filings.

It's also this week's By the Numbers figure.

239 million projected 2012 tax returns


That's a healthy number, but the IRS has plenty of other return projections, for 2012 and many years to come.

The bulk of 2012's returns are, as usual, from individual taxpayers. The IRS expects that 1040s, 1040As and 1040EZs, as well as Forms 1040NR, 1040NR-EZ, 1040-C, 1040EZ-T, 1040-PR and 1040-SS, will account for 145.4 million returns.

The next biggest subset of 2012 filings will come from various 29.7 employment returns.

Individual estimated taxes will bring in another 23.3 million filings for the IRS to handle in 2012.

On the corporate side, IRS researchers project corporate returns will account for 6.8 million filings this year and partnerships will send in another 3.6 million returns.

Almost 1.5 million returns in 2012 will come from exempt organizations.

A lot of "other" returns: A substantial part of the IRS' 2012 processing duties will be in connections with what the agency refers to as supplemental documents.

The agency expects around 23.5 million fillings of:

  • 1040-X, amended individual tax return;
  • 4868, individual income tax filing extension request;
  • 1120-X, amended corporate tax return;
  • 5558, extension to file certain employee plan returns;
  • 7004, extension to file certain business income tax, information and other returns; and
  • 8868, extension to file an exempt organization return.

The remainder of returns will come from areas such as political organizations, government entities and excise tax filings.

Estate tax issues: The IRS also will be dealing with documents from a tax area that hasn't seen as much action in recent years: estate tax.

Beginning in 2012, the unused estate tax exemption of a spouse becomes portable. That means taxpayers can now claim a spouse's unused exemption on Form 706, the federal estate tax return.

The filing volume of this tax form is expected to increase this year, says the IRS, since some estates which aren't otherwise required to file will do so just to take advantage of the exemption's portability.

What's ahead? And going forward, the IRS projects the grand total of all return filings will grow at an average annual rate of 1 percent. Filings, says the IRS, should reach 253.5 million returns by 2018.

Let's hope the agency's got a plan to get its computers up to speed with not only the inevitable tax law changes, but also all these additional returns in the coming years.

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