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Filing Your Tax Return

Filing a tax return is easier today because of software programs capable of calculating your adjusted income, deductions, exemptions, credits and so on. Taxpayers using these programs typically get their returns done much faster and do not put off or delay filing. Additionally, for many years the IRS has encouraged taxpayers to file their returns over the Internet, called e-filing.

What happens if I just don’t file a tax return?

Eventually, the IRS will catch up with you and IRS employees will prepare the returns you did not file. You probably will not get credit for deductions and exemptions on the IRS-prepared returns. The IRS will then send a bill for the tax due, plus penalties and interest.

What is e-filing?

E-filing, or electronic filing, means your return is transmitted by an authorized service (an electronic return originator or ERO) directly to the IRS’s computers.

Is there any advantage to e-filing my tax return?

Yes. If you are due a refund, you will get it in about 2 weeks (rather than the usual 10 week time frame) and it can be deposited directly into your bank account. There is also some data to suggest that e-filers may be audited less often. Additionally, since the data does not have to be entered by an actual person off a paper return, many human errors are avoided during the data entry process.

Who is eligible to e-file?

Anyone who must file a tax return is eligible to e-file unless:

  • your return includes certain schedules;
  • you are claiming miscellaneous tax credits;
  • you are claiming a recapture of low income housing credit;
  • you are claiming certain enterprise or rural empowerment zone income modifications; or
  • you are claiming a resident credit with more than two states per taxpayer.
  • Is it secure to file my return electronically?

    Yes. The return is encrypted and transmitted over secure phone lines to ensure safety, security and confidentiality.

    How do I e-file my tax return?

    You must have IRS approved software installed on your computer in order to e-file your return (such as TurboTax, Tax Basic or Quicken, to name a few). Your tax preparer, if you use one, can e-file from her office assuming she is an authorized ERO.

    SIDEBAR: A list of approved EROs is available on the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov/efile/page/0,,id=10162,00.html.

    What does it cost to e-file?

    Although the IRS itself does not charge a fee for e-filing, EROs typically charge a fee of about $15 to transmit your return.

    TIP: Some software companies refund the fee if you use their tax software.

    SIDEBAR: Taxpayers who meet certain criteria may get free e-filing. To see if you qualify, go to the IRS’s Web site at www.irs.gov/efile/index.html.

    Will I be notified if the IRS received my e-filed tax return?

    Yes. The ERO will notify you by e-mail if your return has been accepted or rejected. If you return was rejected, you will be given the reason and asked to correct the error. For example, you may have made a mistake typing in your spouse’s Social Security number. Once you correct the mistake, the tax return is refiled—typically at no additional cost.

    SIDEBAR: When both federal and state returns are filed at the same time, the federal return is accepted or rejected first. Once the federal tax return is accepted by the IRS, the state return is then transmitted.

    TIP: An accepted tax return has an electronic confirmation number assigned to it. It is a good idea to print out the number in case a question is raised later about the return’s transmission.