Income Tax Services Online Reviews Consumer Reports

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 pros and cons.  E-filing is safe, faster, and more convenient than paper filing, but filing by email can be cheaper, though it requires 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 the new technology at the moment.  The new filing method eventually caught on though and, as of 2018, roughly 90% of taxpayers e-filed their yields.

The biggest advantage of electronic filing is that you will receive almost immediate confirmation that the IRS has received your tax return.

If the IRS finds errors on your return, you will receive a rejection notice (usually within 24-48 hours), and the notice 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, with all of your sensitive data, is transmitted directly to the IRS computer system.

Faster Processing

Your refund is very 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.

Less Human Error


There’s a lesser chance that the IRS will make a error when processing your return because IRS employees don’t need to manually put in your return line-by-line to 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 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 may be better off with one of the IRS’ many free-file affiliates.

The Disadvantages of E-Filing

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 sort of features you desire.

Glitches are always possible when you’re using the net.  In 2020, TurboTax’s site 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.

Does Not Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax situations, there are certain scenarios it does not support.  By way of instance, you can not file a return for someone 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.

Benefits of Paper Filing

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

You Have a Rare Filing Situation

By way of instance, if you will need to prepare a tax return for somebody 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 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 is filing on your behalf.

You can fill out every form line-by-line and see first-hand all the calculations and considerations 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 get.  Because of this, it might lead to errors that you might have to fix through an amended return.

Overwhelming for Beginners

For filers who attempt paper filing after years of electronic filing, gathering all of the forms necessary for things like student loan interest, mortgage interest, capital gains, and business deductions can be intimidating, and it could 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, 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 submission when you file :

  1. Make sure 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’s important 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’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.  Bear in mind that you should make a payment with your extension if you believe you’ll owe anything.  Otherwise, you might be subject to interest and penalties.

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 if 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 duplicate.  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 issue.

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 in your include hiring a tax professional or engaging in filing assistance programs.