taxes

Ways to electronically file your tax return

Taxes » Tax Filing » Electronically File Your Tax Return

You've decided it's finally time to take that big technological tax step. This year, you're e-filing.

You definitely won't be alone. For the last several years, the number of taxpayers electronically filing their returns has increased.

Not surprisingly, e-filing comes in two waves: early filers, who generally are getting tax money back and like the speed e-filing offers in getting the refund process going, and taxpayers who wait until just before the tax deadline to hit the "enter" key.

E-filing by the numbers

Type of electronic filers2013 tax season dataPercentage change over previous filing season
Total returns filed, paper and electronically134.3 million0.8 percent decrease
Total e-filed returns114 million1.7 percent increase
E-filed by tax professionals for clients70.4 million0.1 percent increase
E-filed directly by taxpayers43.6 million4.4 percent increase

Source: Internal Revenue Service

In addition to the appeal of more precise time control over your 1040's delivery, electronic filing offers several more attractions. In most cases, the computer filing programs have all the forms you'll need and they are regularly updated. That's important because Congress often makes last-minute changes to tax laws that delay publication of forms. By using software, you'll get the current and correct filing material sooner.

You're also taken step-by-step through the filing process. And the electronic calculators make fewer mistakes, as long as you enter the correct numbers.

But the most appealing e-filing advantage: Your return gets to and is processed by the Internal Revenue Service sooner. The IRS says turnaround on an e-filed return is, generally, less than two weeks. That speed is especially welcome if you're expecting a refund, which the agency says it can get to you in around 10 days if you e-file and have the refund directly deposited.

Even better, there are a variety of ways to electronically submit your return. Here's a look at your e-file options.

Hire a tax professional

The IRS says computer filing through an authorized tax professional has been the core of e-filing since the system debuted in 1986. Paid tax preparers work with clients to complete their returns and then send them electronically to the IRS. Some preparers take care of the whole process, getting the taxpayer's raw data, exploring appropriate tax breaks, filling in the electronic forms and then submitting them. Others let the taxpayer fill out a paper return and then simply transfer that information to the electronic format for filing.

Do-it-yourself options

If you're comfortable doing your own taxes, you can purchase tax software and put it on your computer. This filing segment continues to grow each tax year. You can either pick up the program at your neighborhood electronics store or department store, or go to the company's website and download it. These packages promise to save you time as well as cash. Just make sure you choose software that fits your filing (and computer) situation.

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