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MUST READ: IRS: Online tax filers can get refunds in about 10 days

WASHINGTON -- Want a quick tax refund? File your federal return online and have the refund deposited directly into your bank account.

The Internal Revenue Service launched its online filing system Friday with a promise that people who do their taxes electronically will get refunds in as few as 10 days.

For those who file paper returns, refunds are expected to take four to six weeks, said David R. Williams, the agency's director of electronic tax administration.

''We really encourage people to file electronically,'' Williams said, adding that it's fast, free and safe.

''We believe e-file is safe and secure and we work with the tax software industry to make sure it stays that way,'' Williams said.

One group still will need to file paper forms: those taking advantage of expanded homebuyer tax credits approved by Congress in November. Congress required documentation to claim the credits, so those returns must be done on paper, Williams said.

Under the program, buyers who have owned their current homes at least five years would be eligible, subject to income limits, for tax credits of up to $6,500. First-time homebuyers or people who haven't owned homes in the previous three years could get up to $8,000. To qualify, buyers have to sign purchase agreements before May 1 and close before July 1.

Tax season is approaching. Some workers already are starting to receive tax forms from employers and financial institutions. Individual income taxes for 2009 are due April 15.

For those who owe additional taxes, they can file electronically and pay later, as long as payments are received by April 15. Taxpayers can set a date to have tax payments automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts or they pay by credit card.

Last year, two-thirds of individual taxpayers filed their returns electronically. This year, Williams expects about 70 percent to file online.