Best Online Filing For Taxes

Know the Pros and Cons of Digital and Paper Tax Returns

When you file your taxes, you have two options for submitting your return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): electronically or by mail.

Both methods of filing have their pros and cons.  E-filing is safe, faster, and generally more convenient than paper filing, but filing by email can be cheaper, although it takes the IRS longer to process refunds.

The Benefits of E-Filing

A scant number of tax professionals–five of them, according to the IRS–took advantage of this new technology at the time.  The new filing method eventually caught on however and, as of 2018, roughly 90% of taxpayers e-filed their returns.

The biggest benefit of electronic filing is that you’ll receive almost immediate confirmation that the IRS has received your tax return.

If the IRS finds errors on your return, you’ll be given a rejection notice (usually within 24-48 hours), and the note will typically indicate what triggered the action and what you can do to repair your tax return.

Safety

E-filing is much more secure than paper filing, according to the IRS, because the return, with all of your sensitive data, is transmitted directly to the IRS computer system.

Faster Processing

Your refund is likely to be processed faster because e-filing means the IRS doesn’t need to sort or transcribe your tax return at its service center.


There is a lower chance that the IRS will make a mistake when processing your return because IRS employees do not need to manually enter your return line-by-line to its own system.

You Do Not Have to Use a Tax Prep Program

You don’t have to use an expensive tax preparation program to e-file your taxes–if you are tax savvy, have a simple situation, and are prepared to understand, you can fill tax forms in directly with IRS free fillable forms.  Be aware that you need to be comfortable completing basic tax forms to use the service as no guidance is provided.  And if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $72,000, you might be better off with one of the IRS’ many free-file affiliates.

The Disadvantages of E-Filing

E-filing comes with some potential headaches, too.

Fees

While there are tax preparation tools that are free, many of the top tax prep firms like TurboTax, TaxSlayer, and H&R Block charge fees for tax returns that go beyond a basic filing.  Fees can exceed $100, depending on which sort of features you want.

Glitches are always possible once you’re using the net.  In 2020, TurboTax’s site experienced at least seven outages between April 15 and April 17.  Additionally, your online service provider may face outages that could hamper your submitting attempt.

Does Not Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax situations, there are certain situations it does not support.  By way of instance, you can’t file a return for someone who passed away, you can not attach pictures or PDFs to your return, nor will you file before the IRS opens e-filing for the year.

Advantages of Paper Filing

Filing a paper return can be very helpful in certain scenarios that e-filing can’t accommodate.

You’ve Got a Rare Filing Situation

For example, if you need to prepare a tax return for somebody who passed away, you must file a paper return.  Also, paper filing lets you print and submit pictures or PDFs to supplement your tax return.

You Want to Build Your Tax Experience

Several online tax prep tools automate the filing process by asking you questions and using your answers to fill out forms without telling you which forms it’s filing for your benefit.

You can fill out each form line-by-line and see firsthand all of the calculations and factors your refund requires.

There are several drawbacks to paper filing which make the procedure riskier and more taxing than e-filing.

Increases Chances of Errors

Data transcribers in the IRS must manually enter taxpayer information for every paper return they get.  As a result of this, it might result in errors that you may need to fix via an amended return.

Overwhelming for Beginners

For filers who try paper filing after years of electronic filing, collecting all of the forms necessary for things like student loan interest, mortgage interest, capital gains, and business deductions can be intimidating, and it could result in missing forms or errors.

You Need to Remember to Sign the Return

Veteran paper filers realize that you have to manually sign the paper return you submit, or the IRS will not accept it.  Newbie paper filers often forget this fact, leading to even longer delays than what you’d normally expect with a paper return.

You can do a few things to streamline your return submission when you file by paper:

  1. Make sure your name and Social Security number are on each page, both front and back. 
  2. Double-check your address. This is where the IRS will send any notices, so it is vital that you don’t make a mistake.

  3. Mail your return to the right IRS service center, as the address can change depending on which state you are in, and whether you’re including payment with your return.  The IRS provides a state-by-state list online so you can find the correct address.

  4. Get an automatic extension if you are mailing your return close to the official filing deadline of April 15, 2021.  Keep in mind that you should make a payment with your extension if you think you’ll owe anything.  Otherwise, you could be subject to penalties and interest.

The IRS provides a list of acceptable filing options on its website, which include the following options:

  1.             Hire a tax professional to prepare your return. 
  2. There are particular requirements for e-filing or paper filing should you use one of these programs.

In the unlikely event your identity is stolen and the thief files a tax return with your data, your e-filed return will be rejected by the IRS as a duplicate.  You have to file a paper tax return in this situation and mail it in with Form 14039, the”Identity Theft Affidavit,” notifying the IRS of the matter.

Key Takeaways

    1. E-filing is fast and provides several free options
    2. Internet or site outages can cause frustrating delays for e-filers. 
    3. Paper filing requires more time than e-filing and may be overwhelming. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes in your include hiring a tax professional or engaging in filing aid programs.