What Is The Safest Online Tax Filing Service

Know the Pros and Cons of Digital and Paper Tax Returns

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 generally more convenient than paper filing, but filing by mail can be cheaper, though it requires the IRS longer to process refunds.

The Benefits of E-Filing

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 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 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 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 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.


There’s a lesser chance that the IRS will make a error when processing your return because IRS employees do not have to manually put in your return line-by-line to its 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 willing 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 might 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 prep tools that 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 type of features you desire.

Glitches are always possible once 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.

Doesn’t Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax situations, 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 will you file before the IRS opens e-filing for the year.

Benefits of Paper Filing

Filing a paper return can be very beneficial in some specific scenarios that e-filing can’t accommodate.

You’ve Got a Rare Filing Situation

E-filing can only do so much. By way of instance, if you 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 pictures or PDFs to supplement your own 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 complete forms without telling you which forms it’s 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 may fill out each form line-by-line and see firsthand all of the calculations and factors your refund requires.

There are lots of drawbacks to paper filing that 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 each paper return they get.  As a result of this, it could result in errors that you might 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 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 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.

Tips for Paper Filing

You can do a few things to streamline your yield entry when you file by paper:

  1. Make sure your name and Social Security number are on every page, both front and back. 
  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, as the address can change depending on which state you’re in, and whether you’re 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’re 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 could 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 are 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 data, 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 matter.

Key Takeaways

    1. E-filing is quickly 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 can be overwhelming. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes in your include hiring a tax professional or engaging in filing assistance programs.