The Internal Revenue Service reported that its e-file program set another record this tax season, with more than 86 million individual tax returns filed so far this year, a 12 percent increase over last year at this time.

In contrast, in all of 2007, nearly 80 million returns were filed electronically. So far this year, 60 percent of all the returns filed came in electronically.

The IRS credited a small percentage of the growth to taxpayers who were only required to file tax returns this year in order to receive an economic stimulus payment. The IRS encouraged low-income people and recipients of Social Security and Veterans Administration benefits to file tax returns, even if they normally don't, to qualify for an economic stimulus payment.

Last-minute filers also accounted for a large boost in e-filed returns. From April 12 to 18, the number of electronically filed returns received by the IRS increased 28 percent over the comparable week last year, even though the overall number of returns, including both paper and electronic, rose only 9 percent. The number of balance-due returns filed electronically surged 21 percent to over 11.3 million, setting another record.

The IRS received about 4.6 million returns via its Free File program, a 21 percent jump over last year. The IRS said Free File would be available on its site and would continue to accept returns from taxpayers with incomes of $54,000 or less through Oct. 15.

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