There are three ways for you to prepare your income taxes: fill out the tax form yourself manually, use tax preparation software or hire someone to prepare your taxes for you. Sending your prepared tax returns to the proper federal, state and local tax collector can be done via snail mail or, for most federal and state returns, you can e-file your returns. Local returns in all but the largest cities are normally filed by mail. If you have your taxes prepared for you, always ask if the returns are being automatically filed or if you must file them yourself and where to send them.
Federal Income Tax
If you make less than $57,000 in income, you can use the IRS free e-file system, which means you don't have to mail in your tax return unless you prefer that method. If you use tax preparation software, the same is true. To file by mail, find the address in the booklet accompanying your tax forms. If you received your forms in the mail, you may have received preaddressed envelopes. Your tax software provides an address for you to use if you don't e-file. To find the address online at IRS.gov, search the term "where to file Form 1040." Different states have different filing addresses, and you are given a choice of sending your return either to the Internal Revenue Service or to the Department of the Treasury. Send your return only to the IRS if you are enclosing a payment. If you are not enclosing a payment, send your return to the Department of the Treasury.
State Income Tax
Lucky you, if you live in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington or Wyoming because those states don't have state income taxes. The rest of the states require you to file tax returns on all or some portion of your income. Each state has different requirements. If your state provides a tax information booklet, it will include the filing address or a preaddressed envelope. If you still can't find the correct address, the Federation of Tax Administrators provides information for all state tax authorities. Your state's office of the secretary of state is another place to get state tax filing information. As with federal returns, you may have different addresses for different types of returns or whether you are sending a payment. Most states offer the option to e-file, and most tax preparation software can either e-file your state return or provide you with the proper address for mailing.
Local Income Tax
Most counties and municipalities do not impose local income tax, but for 23 million Americans living in 4,943 counties and cities in 17 states, local income tax is part of the yearly pain. If you live in a large city, such as New York, you may be able to e-file your tax return. Since every local government has different requirements, look for a return envelope in the tax notice you receive, or you can usually find an address listed at the top of the tax return or near where you sign. Failing that, call the county and city tax assessors, city hall or the county clerk to ask where you can obtain tax forms and where they should be filed. If you use a tax preparer, ask for the address if it is not provided in your tax package.
Income Tax E-File Programs
The IRS encourages e-filing because it is the safest, fastest and easiest way for both you and the IRS. In the 2010 tax year, over 100 million taxpayers submitted their tax returns by e-filing. Most states also offer this service. When you e-file, the information on your return goes directly into the processing computer, which may result in a quicker refund. E-filing is encouraged because of the errors caused by failure to read handwriting and other clerical mistakes when returns are manually processed. E-filing also reduces the cost to the tax authorities, which don't have to hire as many tax processors.
- Federation of Tax Administrators: State Personal Income Taxes
- Tax Foundation: Local Income Taxes: City- and County-Level Income and Wage Taxes Continue to Wane
- Turbo Tax: Options for Paying Your Federal Income Tax
- Internal Revenue Service: Information for E-File
- Turbo Tax: E-file: Income Tax Return Electronic Filing
Victoria Duff specializes in entrepreneurial subjects, drawing on her experience as an acclaimed start-up facilitator, venture catalyst and investor relations manager. Since 1995 she has written many articles for e-zines and was a regular columnist for "Digital Coast Reporter" and "Developments Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from the University of California at Berkeley.