How To Do Tax Return Online Free

Should You E-File or File Taxes by Mail?

Know the Pros and Cons of Digital and Paper Tax Returns

When you file your taxes, you have two options for filing 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 more convenient than paper filing, but filing by mail 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, approximately 90% of taxpayers e-filed their yields.

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 in your return, you will 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 repair your tax return.

Safety

E-filing is much more secure than paper filing, according to the IRS, because the return, together with all your sensitive information, 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 need to sort or transcribe your tax return at its service center.


There’s a lower chance that the IRS will make a mistake when processing your return because IRS employees do not have to manually put in your return line-by-line into its own 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 guidance 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.

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 type of features you desire.

Glitches are always possible when 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 doesn’t support.  By way of instance, you can not file a return for someone who passed away, you can’t attach pictures 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 beneficial in certain scenarios that e-filing cannot accommodate.

You’ve Got a Rare Filing Situation

By way of instance, if you need to prepare a tax return for somebody who passed away, you have to file a paper return.  Also, paper filing lets you print and submit images or PDFs to supplement your own tax return.

You Need to Build Your Tax Experience

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

If you would like to learn 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 can fill out every form line-by-line and see first-hand all the calculations and factors your refund requires.

Disadvantages of Paper Filing

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

Increases Chances of Errors

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

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 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 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.

Tips for Paper Filing

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

  1. Make sure that your name and Social Security number are on every page, both back and front. 
  2. Double-check your address. 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 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 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 return. 
  2. There are specific requirements for e-filing or paper filing should you use these programs.

In the unlikely event that 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. Internet or site outages can cause frustrating delays for e-filers. 
    3. Paper filing requires more time than e-filing and can be overwhelming. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes on your own include hiring a tax pro or participating in filing aid programs.