By offering the ability to file and pay taxes online, Parish National Bank is hoping to motivate repeat visits by small businesses to its Web site.

The $310 million-asset community bank in Covington, La., last week began offering Internet tax filing to its 3,000 business customers through Nationtax Online, a privately held, Birmingham, Ala., company. Users of the service can file and pay their federal taxes, as well as several states' returns.

Some businesses - particularly those with operations in multiple states - file as many as 350 tax forms per month, according to a Nationtax spokeswoman, so traffic to the bank's Web site could increase substantially.

"We're hoping it will attract people to our Web site … and that after they do what they need to do with Nationtax, they'll come back and check us out," said Tammy Tennusa, the bank's sales manager.

Nationtax does not charge banks a fee for the service, though it asks for their help in marketing it. The company recoups transmission and processing costs through a flat fee of $3.95 per filing.

Nationtax Online was started in 1980 and worked mainly with state governments until last spring, when it began marketing its application to banks and other businesses.

The software is now used in 16 states, and operations in another 20 are in various stages of development.

A handful of banks have signed contracts with Nationtax. "Tax filing is a very sensitive financial matter, and people trust their banks to handle very sensitive financial matters," said Rhonda Jung, public relations manager at Nationtax Online. "So this is a very natural partnership."

Lori Murphy, marketing director at Parish National, said, "There are very few small businesses left in this country which don't use a PC. This just gives them one more functionality that they can complete on their own."

Ms. Jung said that online tax filing for small businesses "kind of equalizes the playing field a bit." Larger companies have had to develop their own electronic filing systems, she said, but now small businesses can file electronically as easily as the large ones.

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