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Should I E-File or Paper File?

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Submitting your tax return by e-file and mailing it on paper are the only two ways to send your tax return to the IRS. E-file is faster, safer, and generally more convenient than paper filing. Filing on paper is generally cheaper, and refunds take longer.

E-file benefits

Electronically submitting your tax return to the IRS is faster, more convenient, and more secure than paper filing. But in order to e-file your return you have to have your taxes done by a tax preparer, prepare them yourself using tax software, or use one of the "Free File" web software programs.

Confirmation from the IRS

The biggest benefit for electronic filing: you will receive a confirmation that the IRS has received your tax return. This is proof that the IRS received your tax return and has started processing it. If the IRS does not accept your tax return, you will get a rejection notice. The confirmation or rejection notice is sent within 24 hours of transmitting your return. The IRS e-file rejection letter will tell you how to fix your tax return so it will be acceptable to the IRS.

Faster and More Accurate

E-filing has some added benefits too. Your refund is likely to be processed faster. E-filing means the IRS does not have to re-type your tax return at their service center, which means less chance that the IRS will make a mistake when processing your return.

E-file limitations

Electronically is not for everyone, though. You must file on paper if you are--
  • Married, but filing a separate return, and you live in a community property state,
  • Claiming a dependent who has already been claimed by someone else,
  • Submitting a tax form that cannot be electronically filed (such as a multiple support agreement),
  • Filing before e-file begins (January 15) or after e-file ends (October 15).

Paper Filing

Filing on paper is the best option for you if you have a fairly simple tax return, or if you are not eligible for e-filing. Because the IRS re-types every paper return it receives, you should seriously consider e-filing if you have a more complex tax return.

Quick Tips for Paper Filing

  • Make sure your name and Social Security Number are on Every Page, both front and back.
  • Double check your address. This is the address where the IRS will send your refund and any notices. If you will be moving, consider using a PO Box or other permanent address.
  • Double check the math. Math errors are the number one reason why the IRS changes a tax return.
  • Mail your return to the right Service Center.
  • Get an automatic extension if you are mailing your return close to April 15th. This will prevent penalties just in case the mail is late.
  • Send your tax payment with your tax return. If you are mailing the return close to April 15th, make your tax payment by web pay, credit card, or mailing a check with the automatic extension form. Make sure your payment gets to the IRS by April 15th to avoid any late payment penalties.

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