Ways to 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 past 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
|Total returns filed, paper and electronically||149.2 million||1 percent increase|
|Total e-filed returns||125.8 million||2.7 percent increase|
|E-filed by tax professionals for clients||77.9 million||0.8 percent increase|
|E-filed directly by taxpayers||47.9 million||6 percent increase|
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 IRS sooner. The IRS says turnaround on an e-filed return is, generally, less than two weeks.
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.
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.