The Internal Revenue Service sends out millions of tax refunds every year, but it can take more than a month to get a refund if you file a paper tax return. Filing online using the government's e-file system expedites the processing of tax returns and refunds. Following a few basic e-filing best practices can help ensure that you don't overpay for e-filing and that your electronic return is processed as quickly as possible.
Prepare Tax Documents
E-filing software leads you through the process of declaring income and claiming tax deductions, but you won't be able to file your return efficiently if you don't have all the information you need on hand. Gather all your tax forms, income records and documents related to deductions and credits before you start your tax return. It is essential to report all of your income and claim all the deductions and credits for which you qualify on your initial tax return if you want to save time and money. You can file an amended return to declare income and claim tax breaks that you miss, but you cannot e-file an amended return. Amended returns typically take eight to 12 weeks to process.
The IRS doesn't make you pay to e-file, but the tax filing software you use to file your return may include a fee for federal or state tax preparation and filing. Fees that tax software companies charge may vary depending on the specifics of your return: if you have high income or need to file uncommon tax forms, you may have to pay more for e-filing. Comparing the prices of different tax filing companies can help you find the best deal for your specific tax situation. You can e-file your federal return for free if your adjusted gross income is under $57,000 using "Free File" software. Anyone can e-file for free by submitting Free File Fillable Forms, which are electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Some tax filing software providers let you prepare and e-file federal tax returns for free, but charge fees for e-filing state tax returns.
Check for Errors
Simple errors in the information you provide the IRS can delay the processing of your return. Double-check your Social Security number, taxable income and filing status before e-filing your return. Also, check to make sure your tax withholding and estimated tax payments are recorded on the correct lines and look over the return for basic math errors, such as incorrect addition or subtraction -- many tax preparation programs will do this before you file.
Use Direct Deposit
When you e-file your return, you can choose to have the IRS deposit your refund directly into a bank account. According to the IRS, direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to collect your tax refund. You can get a tax refund in as few as 10 days when you e-file and use direct deposit. Refunds typically arrive in less than 21 days even if you don't use direct deposit. According to TurboTax, one of the most popular tax-preparation programs, tax payment and refund options such as direct deposit vary by state.
- Internal Revenue Service: Filing Options
- Intuit: Why E-file?
- Internal Revenue Service: Topic 308 - Amended Returns
- Internal Revenue Service: Where's My Refund - It's Quick, Easy and Secure
- CBS News: 4 Tips for E-filing your Taxes
- Internal Revenue Service: Topic 303 - Checklist of Common Errors When Preparing Your Tax Return
- Internal Revenue Service: Want Your Tax Refund Fast – Choose Direct Deposit
- TurboTax: Payment and Refund Options for State Income Taxes
Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.