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Should You E-File or File Taxes by Mail?

When you file your taxes, you’ve got two options for filing 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 mail 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 this new technology at the time.  The new filing method eventually caught on though and, as of 2018, roughly 90% of taxpayers e-filed their yields.

Immediate Confirmation

The biggest advantage 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 receive a rejection notice (usually within 24-48 hours), and the notice will typically indicate what triggered the action and what you can do to repair your tax return.

Safety

E-filing is 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.

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 lesser chance that the IRS will make a error when calculating your return because IRS employees do not need to manually enter your return line-by-line to its system.

You Do Not 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’re tax savvy, have a simple situation, and are willing 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 using one of the IRS’ many free-file affiliates.

Fees

When there are tax prep 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 desire.

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.  Additionally, your internet service provider may face outages that could hamper your submitting effort.

Doesn’t Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax scenarios, there are certain scenarios it doesn’t support.  By way of instance, you can not file a return for someone who passed away, you can’t attach images or PDFs to your return, nor can you record 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 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 allows you to print and submit pictures or PDFs to supplement your tax return.

You Want to Build Your Tax Experience

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

If you would like to know about, and better review, the details of your tax return, including all forms related to your tax situation, filing a paper return provides the transparency that you crave. You may fill out every form line-by-line and see first-hand all the calculations and considerations your refund requires.

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

Increases Odds of Errors

Data transcribers in the IRS must manually input taxpayer information for every paper return they receive.  As a result of this, it could result in errors that you might have to fix via an amended return.

Overwhelming for Beginners

For filers who try 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 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, resulting in even longer delays than what you’d normally expect with a paper return.

You can do a few things to streamline your yield 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 perfect IRS service center, as the address can change depending 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 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 ought to 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, Including the following options:

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

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 pro or participating in filing aid programs.