Do It Yourself Taxes Online

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

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

The Advantages 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 yields.

Immediate Confirmation

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 in your return, you’ll receive a rejection notice (usually within 24-48 hours), and the note will typically indicate what triggered the action and what you can do to fix your tax return.

Safety

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

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


There’s a lesser chance that the IRS will make a mistake when calculating your return because IRS employees don’t have to manually put in your return line-by-line into its system.

You Do Not Have to Use a Tax Prep Program

You don’t need to use a costly 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 using IRS free fillable forms.  Be aware that you need to be comfortable completing basic tax forms to use the service as no advice 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.

Fees

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

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

Doesn’t Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax situations, there are certain scenarios it does not support.  For example, you can not 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 beneficial in some specific scenarios that e-filing cannot accommodate.

You Have a Rare Filing Situation

E-filing can only do so much. By way of example, if you will need to prepare a tax return for somebody who passed away, you must file a paper return.  Also, paper filing allows you to print and submit pictures or PDFs to supplement your tax return.

You Need to Build Your Tax Expertise

Several online tax prep tools automate the filing process by asking you questions and using your replies to complete forms without ever telling you which forms it’s filing on your behalf.

You may fill out every form line-by-line and see firsthand all the calculations and factors your refund requires.

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

Increases Odds of Errors

Data transcribers at the IRS must manually enter taxpayer information for each paper return they receive.  Because of this, it might lead to errors that you may have to fix through an amended return.

Overwhelming for Beginners

For filers who attempt paper filing after years of electronic filing, collecting all 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 mistakes.

You Will 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 won’t 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 entry when you file :

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

  3. Mail your return to the right IRS service center, since the address can change depending on which state you are in, and whether you are 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 near 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 might be subject to interest and penalties.

The IRS provides a list of acceptable filing options on its own 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 if you use one of these programs.

In the unlikely event that 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 copy.  You must file a paper tax return in this situation and mail it in with Form 14039, the”Identity Theft Affidavit,” notifying the IRS of this matter.

Key Takeaways

    1. E-filing is fast and provides several free options
    2. Web or site outages can cause frustrating delays for e-filers. 
    3. Paper filing requires more time than e-filing and can be overpowering. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes in your include hiring a tax pro or participating in filing assistance programs.