Internet

Web users find tax relief online

People looking for help with their tax forms are turning government and tax sites into some of the fastest-growing destinations on the Web, according to new studies.

People looking for help with their tax forms are turning government and tax sites into some of the fastest-growing destinations on the Web, according to studies released Wednesday.

Web measurement firm Jupiter Media Metrix said the Internal Revenue Service's Web site saw traffic increase about 275 percent, rising to 7.5 million unique visitors in January from 1.99 million the previous month. Jupiter said IRS.gov was the top-gaining government site as well as the top-gaining property overall for January.

Nielsen/NetRatings also reported Wednesday an increase in Web traffic for tax sites such as IRS.gov and nongovernment sites.

The reports reinforce how the Internet is becoming a part of consumers' everyday lives, analysts said. From filing tax forms online to sending e-mail, the Web has evolved into a revolutionary invention on par with telephones or automobiles.

"Similar to previous years, the annual rush to seek tax information online has hit full stride during January," Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research at Jupiter, said in a statement. "It appears that some governmental sites, such as IRS.gov, have been preparing for the anticipated onslaught of inquiries by offering more features and making their Web sites more user-friendly."

Jupiter said that overall, the government category increased 33 percent month over month to 46.4 million unique visitors in January. The government category includes tax and finance sites.

Meanwhile, Nielsen/NetRatings said traffic to Taxact.com grew 304 percent from December to January, while visitors to TurboTax.com nearly tripled. Traffic to Intuit.com surged 240 percent, and visitors to HRBlock.com increased 221 percent. Nielsen/NetRatings reported a 273 percent increase in people using IRS.gov.

On Wednesday, Jupiter released its numbers for top 50 Web and digital media properties in the United States. The AOL Time Warner Network held the top spot at 87 million unique visitors, followed by Microsoft and its MSN sites at 79 million, Yahoo sites at 75 million, and Terra Lycos at 41 million. The highest-ranking sites remained unchanged from the previous month.