In 2011, close to 100 million Americans opted to electronically file tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service touts this method as the easiest, safest and fastest way to submit individual tax returns. If you're considering e-filing your tax returns, you'll want to take these basic steps to ensure the process will go as smoothly as possible.
Gather All Required Tax Documents
You can save yourself a lot of time by waiting until you receive all required tax documents before e-filing your paperwork. The IRS gives employers until January 31 of each year to send or make W2 forms available to employees. All companies that prepare tax-related paperwork for filing purposes try to send these documents by or before the January 31 deadline. If you paid interest on a mortgage or student loan, or received unemployment compensation or any other type of supplemental income, wait until you receive the appropriate tax documents so you don't have to pay extra to do an amended return later.
Use Free File to e-File
If you make less than $57,000 dollars a year, the IRS will allow you to use its Free File brand of software to electronically file your tax returns at zero cost. You may opt for the fillable forms that do basic math calculations or go with some of the free tax software programs provided by well-known tax preparation providers. Access the Free File options by visiting the IRS website at www.irs.gov.
E-file your tax paperwork through a trusted source. Look for the "https" wording in the URL of the website you are using, as this indicates that submissions will be sent securely to their destination. Scam artists will entice you to visit sites that may look official and then steal your personal information to commit fraud, costing you money and heartache in the long run. You can do a quick review of e-filing providers by typing the name of the provider and the word "reviews" in any major search engine. This will allow you to see what type of experience past users have had with a particular website or tax preparation software.
Consider Using a CPA
If you need to itemize deductions or have complex tax preparation needs, consider using a certified public accountant or CPA to e-file your taxes. While this option may not be free, it can save you both time and money by making sure your tax returns are prepared correctly.
Use Direct Deposit
Selecting a direct deposit option for your tax refund allows you to receive your refund more quickly than if your refund is sent by mail. Direct deposit is a free option that is available to all tax payers. If selecting this option, double check your bank routing and account number when e-filing to avoid any delays or errors in receiving your refund.
Oneil Williams started writing professionally in 1993. He wrote for "The Sunday Gleaner" and the "Jamaica Observer," two newspaper publications in Jamaica, and immigrated to the United States in 1995. Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in communication from the University of Central Florida.