You may be able to file a paperless return using IRS e-file
(electronic filing). If your 2009 adjusted gross income (AGI) is $57,000 or less, you are eligible for Free File. If you do not qualify for Free File, then you should check out www.irs.gov
for low-cost e-file
options or Free File Fillable Forms.
Table 1-4 lists the benefits of IRS e-file. IRS e-file uses automation to replace most of the manual steps needed to process paper returns. As a result, the processing of e-file returns is faster and more accurate than the processing of paper returns. However, as with a paper return, you are responsible for making sure your return contains accurate information and is filed on time.
Using e-file does not affect your chances of an IRS examination of your return.
If you do not need the help of a tax preparer, then Free File Fillable Forms may be for you. These forms:
- Do not have an income requirement so everyone is eligible,
- Are easy to use,
- Perform basic math calculations,
- Are available only at www.irs.gov, and
- Apply only to a federal tax return.
To file your return electronically, you must sign the return electronically using a personal identification number (PIN). If you are filing online using software, you must use a Self-Select PIN. If you are filing electronically using a tax practitioner, you can use a Self-Select PIN or a Practitioner PIN.taxmap/pub17/p17-004.htm#en_us_publink1000170484
The Self-Select PIN method allows you to create your own PIN. If you are married filing jointly, you and your spouse will each need to create a PIN and enter these PINs as your electronic signatures.
A PIN is any combination of five digits you choose except five zeros. If you use a PIN, there is nothing to sign and nothing to mail—not even your Forms W-2.
To verify your identity, you will be prompted to enter your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your originally filed 2008 federal income tax return, if applicable. Do not use your AGI from an amended return (Form 1040X) or a math error correction made by the IRS. AGI is the amount shown on your 2008 Form 1040, line 38; Form 1040A, line 22; or Form 1040EZ, line 4. If you do not have your 2008 income tax return, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to get a free transcript of your return. (If you filed electronically last year, you may use your prior year PIN to verify your identity instead of your prior year AGI. The prior year PIN is the five digit PIN you used to electronically sign your 2008 return.) You will also be prompted to enter your date of birth (DOB). Make sure your DOB is accurate and matches the information on record with the Social Security Administration by checking your annual social security statement.
Table 1-4 Benefits of IRS e-file
|•||Free File allows qualified taxpayers to prepare and e-file their own tax returns for free.|
|•||Free File is available in English and Spanish.|
|•||Free File is available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.|
|•||Get your refund faster than paper filers do, in as little as 10 days with Direct Deposit.|
|•||Sign electronically with a secure self-selected PIN number and file a completely paperless return.|
|•||Receive an e-mailed proof of receipt within 48 hours after the IRS receives your return.|
|•||If you owe, you can e-file and authorize an electronic funds withdrawal or pay by credit card. You can also file a return early and pay the amount you owe later.|
|•||Save time by preparing and e-filing federal and state returns together.|
|•||IRS computers quickly and automatically check for errors or other missing information.|
|•||Help the environment, use less paper, and save taxpayer money—it costs less to process an e-filed return than a paper return.|
You cannot use the Self-Select PIN method if you are a first-time filer under age 16 at the end of 2009.
The Practitioner PIN method allows you to authorize your tax practitioner to enter or generate your PIN. The practitioner can provide you with details.taxmap/pub17/p17-004.htm#en_us_publink1000170489
You must send in a paper Form 8453 if you are attaching or filing Appendix A of Revenue Procedure 2009-20, Forms 1098-C, 2848 (for an electronic return signed by an agent), 3115, 3468 (if attachments are required), 4136 (if certificate or statement required), 5713, 8283 (if a statement is required for Section A or if Section B is completed), 8332 (or certain pages from a decree or agreement that went into effect after 1984 and before 2009), 8858, 8864 (if certification or statement required), 8885, Schedule D-1 (Form 1040) (if you elect not to include your transactions on the electronic STCGL or LTCGL records).taxmap/pub17/p17-004.htm#en_us_publink1000170490
If an agent is signing your return for you, a power of attorney (POA) must be filed. Attach the POA to Form 8453 and file it using that form's instructions. See Signatures
, later for more information on POAs.
In most states, you can file an electronic state return simultaneously with your federal return. For more information, check with your local IRS office, state tax agency, tax professional, or the IRS website at www.irs.gov/efile
You can have a refund check mailed to you, or you can have your refund deposited directly to your checking or savings account or split among two or three accounts. With e-file, your refund will be issued faster than if you filed on paper.
As with a paper return, you may not get all of your refund if you owe certain past-due amounts, such as federal tax, state tax, a student loan, or child support. See Offset against debts
You can go online to check the status of your refund 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, see Refund Information
To avoid late-payment penalties and interest, pay your taxes in full by April 15, 2010. You can make your payment electronically by credit or debit card or by scheduling an electronic funds withdrawal from your checking or savings account.
See How To Pay
, later, for information on how to pay the amount you owe.
You can file your tax return in a fast, easy, and convenient way using your personal computer. A computer with Internet access and tax preparation software are all you need. Best of all, you can e-file from the comfort of your home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
IRS approved tax preparation software is available for online use on the Internet, for download from the Internet, and in retail stores.taxmap/pub17/p17-004.htm#en_us_publink1000170501
Some businesses offer free e-file to their employees, members, or customers. Others offer it for a fee. Ask your employer or financial institution if they offer IRS e-file as an employee, member, or customer benefit.taxmap/pub17/p17-004.htm#en_us_publink1000170502
Free help in preparing your return is available nationwide from IRS-trained volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low to moderate income taxpayers and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is designed to assist taxpayers age 60 or older with their tax returns. Many VITA sites offer free electronic filing and all volunteers will let you know about the credits and deductions you may be entitled to claim. To find a site near you, call 1-800-829-1040. Or to find the nearest AARP TaxAide site, visit AARP's website at www.aarp.org/taxaide
or call 1-888-227-7669. For more information on these programs, go to www.irs.gov
and enter keyword "VITA" in the upper right-hand corner.
Many tax professionals electronically file tax returns for their clients. You may personally enter your PIN or complete Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, to authorize the tax professional to enter your PIN on your return.
Tax professionals may charge a fee for IRS e-file
. Fees can vary depending on the professional and the specific services rendered.