Which Is The Cheapest Online Tax Filing Service

Should You E-File or File Taxes by Mail?

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 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 takes 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 however and, as of 2018, roughly 90% of taxpayers e-filed their yields.

Immediate Confirmation

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 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, because the return, with all 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 have to sort or transcribe your tax return at its service center.


There is a lesser chance that the IRS will make a error when calculating your return because IRS employees don’t need 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 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 using one of the IRS’ many free-file affiliates.

The Disadvantages of E-Filing

E-filing comes with some potential headaches, too.

Fees

When there are tax preparation tools which 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 simple filing.  Fees can exceed $100, depending on which type of features you desire.

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

Does Not Allow for Certain Filing Situations

Though e-filing supports most tax scenarios, there are certain situations it doesn’t support.  By way of instance, you can’t file a return for somebody who passed away, you can’t 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

By way of example, 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 pictures 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 answers to fill out forms without telling you which forms it is filing on your behalf.

If you want 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 the calculations and considerations your refund requires.

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

Increases Odds of Errors

Data transcribers in the IRS must manually input taxpayer information for every paper return they receive.  Because of this, it could lead to errors that you may have to fix via an amended return.

Overwhelming for Beginners

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 could result in 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.

Tips for Paper Filing

You can do a few things to streamline your return entry when you file :

  1. Make sure that 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 right IRS service center, since 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 you can find the right address.

  4. Get an automatic extension if you’re mailing your return close to the official filing deadline of April 15, 2021.  Bear in mind that you ought to 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 own website, Including 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 one of 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 have to 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 overpowering. 
    4. Alternatives to filing taxes in your include hiring a tax pro or engaging in filing aid programs.