Do My Own Tax Return Online Free

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 generally more convenient than paper filing, but filing by email can be cheaper, though it requires 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 the new technology at the time.  The new filing method eventually caught on though and, as of 2018, approximately 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 on your return, you’ll be given a rejection notice (usually within 24-48 hours), and the note will typically indicate what triggered the actions and what you can do to fix your tax return.

Safety

E-filing is much more secure than paper filing, according to the IRS, since the return, together with all 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 does not have 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 have to manually enter your return line-by-line into its own system.

You Don’t 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’re tax savvy, have a very 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

When 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 simple filing.  Fees can exceed $100, depending on which type of features you want.

Vulnerable to Outages

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.  Also, your internet service provider may face outages that could hamper your submitting attempt.

Does Not Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax scenarios, there are certain scenarios it does not support.  For instance, you can not file a return for somebody 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.

Benefits of Paper Filing

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

You Have a Rare Filing Situation

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

You Need to Build Your Tax Experience

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

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

There are lots of drawbacks to paper filing which make the process riskier and more taxing than e-filing.

Increases Chances of Errors

Data transcribers at the IRS must manually input taxpayer information for every paper return they receive.  Because of this, it could lead to errors that you may need to fix via an amended return.

For filers who attempt 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 might 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 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.

Tips for Paper Filing

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 back and front. 
  2. This is where the IRS will send any notices, so it’s 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 near the official filing deadline of April 15, 2021.  Keep in mind that you should make a payment with your extension if you believe you’ll owe anything.  Otherwise, you might be subject to penalties and interest.

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 own return. 
  2. There are specific requirements for e-filing or paper filing should 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 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. Web or website outages can cause frustrating delays for e-filers. 
    3. Paper filing requires more time than e-filing and may be overpowering. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes on your own include hiring a tax professional or engaging in filing aid programs.