Down by 400,000 Returns – The End of Tax Prep?

Red Alert: Tax professional e-filings drop by 0.5% year-to-year, first year-to-year decline ever.

Final IRS stats for Busy Season 2020 shows professionals filed 0.5% fewer returns than last year and lost market share to DIY’ers.

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By Beth Bellor
CPA Trendlines Research

In what may be an alarming turning point for the profession, tax practitioners finished an already chaotic and bruising Tax Season 2020 after preparing a total of 73.8 million e-filed returns – a decline of 400,00, or 0.5 percent, from Tax Season 2019 – the first such reversal on record. Ever.

Jon Baron

MORE on TAX SEASON 2020: Say Hello to the New 24-Month Busy Season | When COVID ‘Got Real’ | Tax Pros Hold eFiling Market Share as Tax Seasons Winds Down | The Top Six IRS #FAILS this Tax Season (So Far) | How COVID Has Pulverized IRS Operations | The Mystery of 10 Million Missing Tax Returns | COVID Cuts Accounting Profits | Why Busy Season May Never Be the Same Again | COVID Tests Accountants’ Entrepreneurial Talents | Pro Tax Prep Stalls to a Crawl amid Covid-Extended Season | Clients, Revenues, Profits – Trending Down, Down, Down |

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“If you are in public accounting and relying on personal return revenue, the results this year are troubling as it is the first time that professionally prepared returns actually fell from the prior year,” says Jon Baron, the longtime CEO of Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting, and now a venture capitalist with more than a couple startups in stealth mode.

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Tax Pros Hold eFiling Market Share as Tax Seasons Winds Down

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Refunds up but barely.

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By Beth Bellor

As the extended 2020 tax season drags to a close, nearly all the touchpoints remain in the red.

MORE: Tax Pros Take Bigger Share of E-filings | The Mystery of 10 Million Missing Tax Returns | Tax Pro E-Filings Down 20 Percent | IRS Web Traffic Doubles over Year-Ago | COVID Drowns IRS in New Filings | 2020 Tax Season Comes to a Screeching Halt | The Tax Season 2020 Dumpster Fire | Tax Pros Fall Behind 6.2% in Returns Filed | Tax Pros Trail by 908,000 Returns | Tax Pro IRS Filings Lag by 532,000 | Tax Pro E-Filings Lag by 512,000 Returns | Tax Pros Kick into High Gear | Slow Start for Tax Pro E-filing | Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens | The Fight for New Tax Clients
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The Internal Revenue Service had received 142.4 million individual income tax returns, down 2 percent from the same period in 2019, as of July 3, the latest data available. It had processed 130.6 million returns, down 9.5 percent.
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Tax Pros Take Bigger Share of E-filings

Refunds up, but not by much.

By Beth Bellor

Ever so slowly, the professionals are closing the gap with the DIYers in tax preparation.

MORE: The Mystery of 10 Million Missing Tax Returns | The Tax Season 2020 Dumpster Fire | The Fight for New Tax Clients
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The Internal Revenue Service had received 139.9 million individual income tax returns as of the week ending June 26 – the latest data available – down 3.5 percent from the same period in 2019. It had processed 128.5 million returns, down 10.6 percent.
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Tax Pros Start to Gain Ground in E-Filings

Refunds one of the only bright spots.

By Beth Bellor

Tax pros may be down for the year in e-filings, but they remain ahead of the do-it-yourselfers.

MORE: The Mystery of 10 Million Missing Tax Returns | COVID Drowns IRS in New Filings
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The IRS had received 138.3 million individual income tax returns as of the week ending June 19, the latest data available. That’s down 4.4 percent from the same period in 2019. The agency had processed 126.6 million returns, down 11.4 percent.
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Pros Filing More Returns than DIYers

Chart of IRS tax return data for the week ending June 5, 2020… in the tax season that never ends.

By Beth Bellor

Bleak but slightly less so.

MORE: Tax Pro E-Filings Down 20 Percent | IRS Web Traffic Doubles over Year-Ago | COVID Drowns IRS in New Filings | 2020 Tax Season Comes to a Screeching Halt | The Tax Season 2020 Dumpster Fire | Tax Pros Fall Behind 6.2% in Returns Filed | Tax Pros Trail by 908,000 Returns
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That’s probably the best way to categorize the trends in the most recent data from the Internal Revenue Service.

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Tax Pros Hold Slimmest of Margins in E-filings

data chart
Data for the week ending May 22

But those filings remain down 17 percent.

By Beth Bellor

Bright spots keep popping up in the Internal Revenue Service’s weekly data on filings. Yay!

MORE: Tax Pro E-Filings Down 20 Percent | IRS Web Traffic Doubles over Year-Ago | COVID Drowns IRS in New Filings | 2020 Tax Season Comes to a Screeching Halt | The Tax Season 2020 Dumpster Fire | Tax Pros Fall Behind 6.2% in Returns Filed | Tax Pros Trail by 908,000 Returns | Tax Pro IRS Filings Lag by 532,000
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Unfortunately, they’re in the same old spots: refunds (which don’t help overworked CPAs), IRS.gov traffic (maybe there’s where all the budget goes) and self-preparers (who even let them in?). Boo!
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Pro Tax Prep Stalls to a Crawl amid Covid-Extended Season

data chartPros hold the margin, but barely.

By Beth Bellor

New tax filing statistics show only a couple of upticks over last year: DIY e-filings and IRS website traffic, suggesting tax practitioners have hit the big “pause” button on Tax Season 2020.

MORE: Tax Pro E-Filings Down 20 Percent | IRS Web Traffic Doubles over Year-Ago | COVID Drowns IRS in New Filings | 2020 Tax Season Comes to a Screeching Halt | The Tax Season 2020 Dumpster Fire | Tax Pros Fall Behind 6.2% in Returns Filed | Tax Pros Trail by 908,000 Returns | Tax Pro IRS Filings Lag by 532,000
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Then again, if you’re in I.T. at the IRS, that might not be such happy news.
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Tax Pro E-Filings Down 20 Percent

IRS.gov visits top 1 billion.

By Beth Bellor

With two long months to go in this pandemic-stretched tax season, all the key figures are down, down, down … except visits to the IRS website, of course, and a flat spot for DIYers.

Will business pick up as states reopen? Or are the clients waiting in the wings the ones no one wants?

MORE: IRS Web Traffic Doubles over Year-Ago | COVID Drowns IRS in New Filings | 2020 Tax Season Comes to a Screeching Halt | The Tax Season 2020 Dumpster Fire | Tax Pros Fall Behind 6.2% in Returns Filed | Tax Pros Trail by 908,000 Returns
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The IRS had received 125.5 million individual income tax returns as of the week ending May 1, the latest data available, down 11 percent from the same period one year ago. It had processed 113.1 million returns, down 16.1 percent.
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