Frequently Asked Questions About Filing Your Taxes Electronically
The e-file process allows taxpayers to submit their taxes electronically by connecting to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Electronic Filing System. E-filing can be done from a computer (as well as some modern smartphones and tablets) using tax preparation software that has been approved by the IRS.
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What Are the Benefits of E-File?
The benefits of e-filing include:
• You can electronically file 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
• Your information remains secure and encrypted to ensure confidentiality.
• E-filed returns have fewer errors than paper returns.
• You can get your tax refund faster.
• You receive proof of filing and a notice when your return has been received and accepted.
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According to the IRS, 20% of income tax returns prepared on paper have mistakes, and mistakes can lead to overpaying taxes. Only about 1% of electronically prepared returns have errors.
The IRS issues acknowledgements online when e-filed returns are received and approved, so you’ll know within 48 hours that your return has been received. If the IRS detects any errors, your return is sent back to you (or your tax preparer) for corrections to be made.
A mailed return can take up to 6 weeks for your tax refund to arrive. Using the e-file process for your return gives you a faster refund and allows you the option to have it directly deposited into your bank account.
If you owe taxes, you can still file electronically. Know that you are required to make payment of tax due by the original April 15th deadline (which is actually April 18th this year). As long as your check is in the mail by the due date, your taxes will be considered “on time.” Other payment options include: the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), Electronic Funds Withdrawal (EFW) from your bank account, money order, or using a credit card. Note that paying by credit card will cost a little extra because you’ll be charged a “convenience fee.”
How Much Does E-File Cost?
The costs associated with e-file are those charged by tax preparers and tax preparation software companies. Some are more reasonably priced than others. It usually costs between $20-$80 to e-file a Federal return, plus an additional $30-50 to e-file a State return. However, if your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was below $62,000 in 2015, you may qualify to use the IRS Free File software program.
Is There E-File for State Returns?
The 37 states listed below (and the District of Columbia) allow you to e-file your state tax return at the same time you e-file your federal return online. This is referred to as the “Federal/State e-file Program.” Essentially, you send both returns to the IRS, and the IRS electronically forwards your state return to the tax authority in your state.
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A few states allow you to e-file your state return directly — including California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
What About Confidentiality?
The IRS, the various state tax authorities, and professional tax preparers are all under the same confidentiality rules for e-filed returns as they are for paper returns. They are not allowed to reveal or discuss any information from your tax return without your authorization. The same rules apply for tax software developers. Customer data must remain confidential throughout the entire e-file process.