Is It Easy To File Your Own Taxes Online

When you file your taxes, you have 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 mail can be cheaper, although it takes 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 however and, as of 2018, roughly 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 on your return, you’ll receive a rejection notice (usually within 24-48 hours), and the note will typically indicate what triggered the actions and what you can do to repair 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 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 doesn’t need to sort or transcribe your tax return in its service center.

Less Human Error


There’s a lesser chance that the IRS will make a mistake when processing your return because IRS employees don’t 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 a costly tax preparation program to e-file your taxes–if you’re tax savvy, have a simple situation, and are prepared to learn, you can fill tax forms in directly with 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

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 basic filing.  Fees can exceed $100, depending on which type of features you desire.

Vulnerable to Outages

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 attempt.

Doesn’t Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax scenarios, there are certain scenarios it doesn’t support.  For example, you can not file a return for someone who passed away, you can not 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 some specific 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 allows you to 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 answers to fill out forms without ever telling you which forms it is filing for your benefit.

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

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

Increases Chances of Errors

Data transcribers in the IRS must manually enter taxpayer information for each paper return they receive.  As a result of this, it might lead to errors that you may need to fix via an amended return.

Overwhelming for Beginners

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 could 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 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.

You can do a few things to streamline your return entry 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 is important that you don’t make a mistake.

  3. Mail your return to the right 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 correct address.

  4. Get an automatic extension if you are mailing your return close to the official filing deadline of April 15, 2021.  Bear in mind that you should make a payment with your extension if you think 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 own return. 
  2. There are specific requirements for e-filing or paper filing if you use one of 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. Internet or site outages can cause frustrating delays for e-filers. 
    3. Paper filing requires more time than e-filing and may be overwhelming. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes on your own include hiring a tax professional or engaging in filing aid programs.