In today’s era of rapidly growing technology, filing taxes online is an increasingly popular choice--especially for taxpayers facing a crunch to get their tax documents filed on time. Choosing to file your taxes online provides many benefits, including quick confirmation and refunds, better accuracy, no paper return to mess with and the ability to file now and pay later. Don’t let yourself become intimidated by the thought of filing electronically--there are plenty of websites out there that make it a painless--and sometimes free--prospect.
To get started filing taxes online, you need a few basic electronic tools. The two most crucial are a computer with a modem, and internet access. If you don’t have high-speed internet at home, consider going to an Internet cafe or library that provides wireless Internet access for patrons (though make sure you have proper security settings on your laptop). While filing taxes online isn’t overly difficult, it can be time-consuming and you don’t want to risk getting bumped off the Internet before you have time to save changes to your return. If you filed your taxes electronically the previous year, you’ll also need to make sure you have your personal identification number (PIN) for this year’s return.
Personal documents are a necessity when it comes to filing taxes, whether done via paper or computer. First, make sure you have a hard copy of last year’s tax return and your PIN if you filed electronically. Next, you’ll need your Social Security number as well as those of your spouse (if applicable) and any dependents you’ll be claiming. You can obtain these via driver’s licenses or Social Security cards. Finally, gather the W-2 forms for all of your employers and, if applicable, those for your spouse’s employers.
You’re going to need certain other documents when you sit down to file your taxes online, such as receipts pertaining to your small business or self-employment, Forms 1099-INT displaying any interest paid to you over the past year, and Form 1099-G displaying refunds, credits or any offset related to state and local taxes. Other documents you may need to keep handy include income receipts related to rental real estate, partnerships, trusts, S corporations or royalties and any itemized deductions you plan to claim. Examples include dental and medical expenses, receipts for taxes already paid, job-related expenses and charitable donation receipts.
Electronic Filing (e-filing)
One method for e-filing is purchasing tax preparation software such as TurboTax or H&R Block at Home that include a free e-filing option with purchase of the software. Another option is to use the IRS’ free e-file option if your annual salary qualifies you for that choice. Check out the IRS' Free File webpage (see Resources) to find out whether you qualify. If you don’t qualify for Free File, you can still use the IRS authorized e-file provider locator to find a reputable website to use for filing your taxes online.
Many people who hesitate to file their taxes online fear that their electronic return will not be secure. While this is a valid concern, choosing an IRS authorized e-file provider who has been in the business for years can be a pretty safe bet. Not only do these providers already have a solid reputation, they invest a lot of time and money into keeping your electronic information safe in order to maintain that reputation. Think about it: If they fail to keep your information safe, they’ll run themselves out of business.
Another tip to keep in mind when filing sensitive information online is to make sure the address in your web browser starts with “https.” If it doesn’t, do not send any sensitive information electronically. Also, major online tax providers will save your tax data from the previous year, which can give you a head start on filing the next year’s taxes. Ditto for tax-prep software such as H&R Block At Home and TurboTax. Also, even though filing electronically means you don’t have to mess with filing a paper return, make sure that you retain a hard copy for your own purposes.
Heather Faucher is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. A former certified paralegal and current professional writer, her non-fiction work primarily involves online articles and website content relating to the legal, human resources, and publishing fields. Her first novel debuts under a pseudonym from Penguin Group in August, 2010. She holds a Master of Arts in legal analysis from Webster University.