The Internal Revenue Service reported that the overall number of tax return filings has declined somewhat this tax season.

In statistics covering the period through March 12, the IRS noted that despite the decline in overall tax filing, the percentage of electronically filed returns remains strong. More than 82 percent of the 69 million returns received this year have come in via e-file. Home usage of e-file is up almost 7 percent compared to this time last year.

In addition, the average federal tax refund totaled $3,036, an increase of $266 compared with the same period a year ago.

The refund increase follows a number of federal tax incentives enacted last year as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, such as the first-time homebuyer credit and the American Opportunity Credit.

“There are several new credits and deductions this year, so we encourage taxpayers to see if they qualify when they fill out their tax return,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in a statement. “To get their refunds quicker, the IRS reminds taxpayers that the fastest, easiest way is to e-file and use direct deposit.”

The IRS and the White House have unveiled a new online tool that can help taxpayers identify the new tax credits in the Recovery Act for which they may qualify (see White House Unveils Online Tax Savings Tool).

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