Web Surfers Get Jump on Tax Season

Internet users are getting an early start for the upcoming U.S. tax season, according to leading Internet audience measurement service Nielsen//NetRatings.

Traffic to several Intuit Web sites and the IRS site spiked during the week ending Jan. 21. Intuit.com doubled to 608,000 unique visitors, compared with 315,000 the previous week. Unique visitors to Shopintuit.com jumped 71 percent to 217,000, while traffic to Turbotax.com grew 58 percent to 266,000 unique visitors.

Visitors to the IRS Web site surged 57 percent to 551,000. Surfers spent an average of 12 minutes at the site, with a majority downloading new tax forms.

"Filing online illustrates one of the Web's most enduring value propositions of saving time. Not to be overlooked is the access to tax information and filing forms the IRS provides from its Web site,'' says Allen Weiner, Vice President of Analytical Services at NetRatings.

Most office workers surf the Web between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to Nielsen//NetRatings' December traffic patterns. More than 80 percent of office workers log on to the Internet during this period. After these peak hours, usage dwindles to 19 percent by midnight, and a low of 8 percent at 3 a.m., gradually building back up to 68 percent usage by 8 a.m.