I’m thinking about e-filing my return this year. Should I do that or should I file the old-fashioned way?
Accuracy, speed, and security are among the chief benefits of electronically filing your income tax return. With e-file, there is no need to submit a paper return to the IRS and even payments and refunds can be transmitted electronically.
According to the IRS, less than 1 percent of electronically prepared returns contain errors as compared to roughly 20 percent of paper returns. That’s because, in most cases, electronic tax filing software does the math for you and alerts you to potential errors before you file. This greatly reduces the chance of getting an error letter from the IRS.
In a hurry for your refund? You’ll get it much faster when you file electronically. Typically, you can expect to receive your refund in approximately three weeks from the acknowledgement date and even sooner when you have your refund credited directly to your bank account.
With e-filings, there’s no need to worry about your return getting lost in the mail. In fact, within two business days of receiving your return, the IRS will acknowledge its receipt. And that’s not all. If there is an error, it will be bounced back to the transmitter within two days, with an explanation of the rejection reason. This allows you to quickly resolve the error and resubmit. By comparison, the same process for paper returns could take weeks or even months, delaying your refund. And by choosing to have your refund deposited directly to your bank account, you eliminate the concern of having your income tax check lost in the mail or stolen.
How do I e-file?
You have two e-filing choices: you can have a CPA or another professional tax preparer complete your return and submit it electronically or you can prepare the return yourself and arrange to have it submitted to the IRS. To complete the return on your own, you will need a computer, modem, and commercial tax preparation software. You can purchase the software and install it on your computer, or if you prefer, you can download tax preparation software from the Internet and prepare your return offline or use a Web-based system to prepare your return online.
Once your return is completed, you will need to submit it via modem to an authorized e-file provider who takes the file you send, converts it to the IRS-required format, and sends it to the IRS. To find an authorized e-file provider in your area, go to the IRS Web-site at www.irs.gov and click on the e-file icon.
How do I sign my return when I e-file?
The most convenient way for you to “sign” your electronic return is to use a self-selected PIN (personal identification number). With a PIN, there is no paper signature document to send in. You do not need to register the PIN with the IRS, nor do you need to contact the IRS to get it. When you use one of the commercially available tax software packages that support the self-selected PIN option, you will be guided through the process of entering your own PIN. If you use a tax professional, the preparer will help you.
If you choose not to select a PIN, you can simply sign the paper signature document, Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Declaration for an IRS e-file Return, and mail it to the IRS.
I owe money this year, but I still want to e-file. What should I do?
A CPA can file your return electronically at any time during the filing season, and you can authorize the IRS to debit your checking or savings account on April 15. If you prefer, you can mail a check to the IRS by April 15 or pay by credit card. If you choose the credit card option, be aware that you may be charged a convenience fee. Although the IRS does not charge for e-filing, the provider may collect a fee, depending on the specific services you request.
I’ve already e-filed my return this year. What am I supposed to do with all of my W-2s and receipts?
When you file electronically, you do not need to mail the IRS supporting documents, such as your W-2 or receipts for charitable contributions. However, CPAs caution you to retain your receipts and other supporting documents because you’ll need to produce them in the event of an IRS audit. CPAs also recommend that you print a copy of your return for your records.
I’ve heard about the IRS Free File program. What is it, and how do I take advantage of it?
Everyone is eligible to Free File, using one of two options:
- The IRS and a group of tax software companies have partnered to offer free e-filing for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $64,000 or less in 2016. You can find out more about Free File on the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.
- If your income is greater than $64,000, use Free File Fillable Forms, which are online versions of our paper forms designed for people comfortable preparing their own tax returns. This option does not offer state tax returns and performs only basic calculations.
What documents should be included with my tax form?
Generally, the only forms that need to be attached are your W-2 and certain 1099 forms.
*Note if you file electronically, you are not attaching the W-2 or 1099s.
| American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
||Texas State Board of Public Accountancy