Free Business Online Tax Software

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 filing have their advantages and disadvantages.  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

E-filing was first introduced in 1986, and it got off to a slow start. 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.

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

Safety

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

Your refund is likely to be processed quicker because e-filing means the IRS does not need to sort or transcribe your tax return in its service center.

Less Human Error


There is a lesser chance that the IRS will make a mistake when calculating your return because IRS employees do not have to manually put in your return line-by-line to its own system.

You Don’t Have to Use a Tax Prep Program

You don’t need 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 learn, 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 guidance is provided.  And if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than $72,000, you may be better off using 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 which are free, many of the top tax prep companies 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 internet.  In 2020, TurboTax’s site 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 situations it doesn’t support.  By way of example, you can not file a return for somebody who passed away, you can not attach images or PDFs to your return, nor can you file before the IRS opens e-filing for the year.

Advantages of Paper Filing

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

You’ve Got a Rare Filing Situation

E-filing can only do so much. By way of instance, if you will need to prepare a tax return for someone who passed away, you must file a paper return.  Also, paper filing allows you to print and submit images 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 answers to complete forms without ever telling you which forms it is filing for your benefit.

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

Disadvantages of Paper Filing

There are lots of 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 input taxpayer information for each paper return they get.  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, gathering all the forms necessary for things like student loan interest, mortgage interest, capital gains, and business deductions can be intimidating, and it might lead to missing forms or errors.

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 will not accept it.  Newbie paper filers often forget this fact, resulting in 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 yield submission when you file :

  1. Make sure that your name and Social Security number are on every page, both back and front. 
  2. 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 perfect IRS service center, as the address can change based on which state you’re in, and whether you are including payment with your return.  The IRS provides a state-by-state list online so that you can find the right 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 website, which include the following options:

  1.             Hire a tax professional to prepare your return. 
  2. Use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program, if you’re eligible. There are specific requirements for e-filing or paper filing should you use these programs.

In the unlikely event your identity is stolen and the thief files a tax return with your information, 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 the matter.

Key Takeaways

    1. E-filing is quickly 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 may be overpowering. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes on your own include hiring a tax professional or participating in filing aid programs.