Ways to electronically file your tax return

E-file online

Don't want to clutter your computer with a program you use just once a year? Go to one of the many tax software websites and e-file directly online. In some cases, online filing is free. Even if you do have to pay for the service, it's generally cheaper than buying the software and you don't have to worry about working through any glitches that pop up when you load a new program onto your computer. Some people, however, aren't comfortable with their personal tax information floating out there in cyberspace if they can't complete and file their Form 1040 in one online visit.

Use the Free File Alliance

Each of the three previous e-file options might cost you. But you may be able to file for free if you meet criteria established by the various members of the Free File Alliance, a government and tax software industry partnership created to encourage more e-filers. The 2015 Free File program opened its e-doors this year on Jan. 20. You can find participating members at the IRS' special Web page. While the Alliance makes it cheap and easy for many taxpayers to file, it's not available to everyone. The major determinant is your income.

This filing season, only individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $60,000 or less can use the tax prep software and e-file for no charge. However, the IRS has added Free File Fillable Forms to the program, which can be used by any taxpayer, regardless of income. You won't have access to online software with this option, but if you know what information goes on your Form 1040, you can type it in and send it, for free, directly to the IRS.

Other electronic tax considerations

E-filers also should look into the electronic transfer of tax money -- either a refund coming to you or money you owe the IRS.

You can have your refund directly deposited to a chosen account by giving the IRS your personal account details. This should shave a few more days off the wait for your refund.

If you owe, you can have money sent directly to Uncle Sam through several e-payment methods, from credit card payments (remember you'll also have to pay a processing fee) to direct transmission of the money to the IRS. With the IRS' Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, you can schedule advance and recurring tax payments, but registration is required before you can use it. The Direct Pay option, which the IRS instituted in 2014, doesn't require registration, but you can only make one payment at a time. EFTPS and Direct Pay are free.



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