What Tax Filing Service Is 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 pros and cons.  E-filing is safe, faster, and more convenient than paper filing, but filing by email can be cheaper, although 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 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’ll receive almost immediate confirmation that the IRS has received your tax return.

If the IRS finds errors in your return, you will be given a rejection notice (usually within 24-48 hours), and the notice will typically indicate what triggered the action and what you can do to fix your tax return.

Safety

E-filing is more secure than paper filing, according to the IRS, since the return, together with all your sensitive information, is transmitted directly to the IRS computer system.

Faster Processing

Your refund is very 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 is a lesser chance that the IRS will make a mistake when processing your return because IRS employees don’t need to manually enter your return line-by-line into its own system.

You Do Not Have to Use a Tax Prep Program

You don’t have to use a costly tax preparation program to e-file your taxes–if you are tax savvy, have a simple situation, and are prepared to understand, 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 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.

Fees

When there are tax prep tools which are free, many of the leading 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 sort of features you want.

Glitches are always possible when you’re using the internet.  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 filing effort.

Does Not Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax situations, there are certain situations it does not support.  By way of 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 beneficial in certain scenarios that e-filing cannot accommodate.

You’ve Got a Rare Filing Situation

By way of example, 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 Want to Build Your Tax Expertise

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’s filing for your benefit.

If you want 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 you crave. 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 which make the procedure riskier and more taxing than e-filing.

Increases Chances of Errors

Data transcribers in the IRS must manually input taxpayer information for each paper return they receive.  Because of this, it could result in errors that you may need to fix through an amended return.

For filers who attempt paper filing after years of electronic filing, collecting all of 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 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 by paper:

  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 is important that you don’t make a mistake.

  3. Mail your return to the perfect IRS service center, since 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 close to the official filing deadline of April 15, 2021.  Keep 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 own website, Including the following options:

  1.             Hire a tax professional to prepare your return. 
  2. There are particular 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 data, your e-filed return will be rejected by the IRS as a duplicate.  You must file a paper tax return in this case and mail it in with Form 14039, the”Identity Theft Affidavit,” notifying the IRS of the matter.

Key Takeaways

    1. E-filing is fast 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 can be overpowering. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes on your own include hiring a tax professional or engaging in filing assistance programs.