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Most Americans now rely on digital technology for filing taxes. Last year, nearly 132 million people filed their returns electronically. That represents 86 percent of all returns filed in 2016.
Refunds can be processed more quickly when tax data is sent online. Last year more than 88 million refunds amounting to nearly $265 billion were direct-deposited to consumers’ accounts.
Now the IRS wants you to pay up online as well, and it has entered into partnerships with private-sector businesses to make tax e-payments as easy and appealing as possible.
In 2016, more than 5 million taxpayers used the tax agency’s IRS2Go mobile app to make payments, a 29 percent increase over the previous year.
Here are several ways you can electronically move your money into the U.S. Treasury.
Digital wallet, credit and debit card payments
Taxpayers can make payments via credit card, debit card or a digital wallet using their smartphone.
Official Payments, Link2Gov and WorldPay are the IRS-approved plastic and digital processors. Each company accepts payments from electronic as well as paper filers, either via phone or the Internet, in Spanish as well as English.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa are among credit cards accepted for payments. Not all cards are accepted for all payment types. The cards that are accepted will be identified when you make your payment.
Companies that accept credit card, debit card and Digital Wallet tax payments
Phone number: (888) 729-1040
Official Payments Corp.
Phone number: (888) 872-9829
WorldPay US, Inc.
Phone number: (844) 729-8298
Each company has its own fee schedule, with credit card fees ranging from 1.87 percent to 2 percent of your tax bill and debit card fees of up to $3.95 per transaction. Additional “convenience fees” are tacked on in some cases.
And don’t forget that if you don’t pay off the credit card charge in full, you’ll start racking up interest on the taxes you paid.
You can find a low-interest credit card at Bankrate.
Your tax payment and the fees usually will appear separately on your card statement. If you itemize, note the fee amount. You can count that as a miscellaneous deduction when you file your 2017 return next year.
With IRS’ Direct Pay option, there is no pre-registration and you don’t have to worry about fees. You send money directly from your checking or savings account to pay the bill.
Direct Pay — available through the IRS website or as a feature on IRS2Go — is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can schedule payments, including estimated tax amounts, up to 30 days in advance.
To use Direct Pay, you will need to have an old tax return handy, one filed within the past six years, to help the IRS verify your identity.
You enter how much you want to pay, the payment type (annual tax bill, estimated payment, etc.) and the tax period to which the payment applies.
Finally, you give the IRS your bank information. Note that the IRS won’t keep that in its systems once the cash is transferred.
Electronic funds withdrawal
Individuals who file via computer, either on their own or with the help of a paid preparer, can use electronic funds withdrawal, or EFW. This basically is the reverse of the direct deposit that the IRS recommends for those getting refunds.
When you get to the end of your computer tax-filing chores and find you owe, EFW will be one of your payment choices. You’ll be asked for your personal account number, what type of account it is (savings or checking) and the financial institution’s routing number.
In most instances, electronic funds withdrawal is free. But it wouldn’t hurt to confirm with your bank or credit union that it does indeed allow such transfers at no cost.
One nice thing about EFW is that you can decide exactly when your tax payment comes out of your bank account by scheduling the payment — as long as it’s by the April due date.
Don’t know if you owe tax or if you might get a refund? Do a quick calculation on Bankrate’s 1040 tax estimator.
Electronic Federal Tax Payment System
Another way to avoid credit card and possible bank fees is by using the federal Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, known as EFTPS.
EFTPS has been used by businesses for years. It is a free service, available year-round. Individual taxpayers can make use of EFTPS to pay taxes associated with more than two dozen tax forms, including the family of 1040 forms (estimated and amended returns, too).
You must, however, enroll and get a personal identification number and password, and this takes time.
As with Direct Pay and electronic funds transfers, EFTPS users can make payments around the clock — and schedule them in advance.
Cash payments, too
Last year the IRS introduced an option to pay your tax bill in cash. The agency partnered with Official Payments and PayNearMe to allow taxpayers to make cash tax payments at participating 7-Eleven stores.
The process does require some planning, so don’t expect to walk into your local convenience store on the tax due date and settle your account with the IRS. Payments are limited to $1,000 per day, and it usually takes two business days for your payment to post to your account. Expect to pay $3.99 per payment. Check first to see if you are near an approved payment location or call (888) 714-0004.
For more information on electronic tax options, check out the Bankrate’s feature “Ways to electronically file your return.”