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Electronic Filing (e-filing)
"E-file" is the IRS program for electronic filing of federal tax returns. Most states also participate, allowing you to e-file your federal and state returns simultaneously.
E-filing is not sending your return to the IRS by fax or email, or by uploading it to the IRS website (none of which are allowed). An individual taxpayer cannot directly e-file with the IRS; it must be done through an Electronic Return Originator (such as Hamilton) or other authorized e-file provider.
At Hamilton, e-filing is included free in our tax preparation services.
If you prepare your own return using off-the-shelf tax software, the program may allow you to transmit your return to the software company for e-filing, usually for an additional fee.
Benefits of e-filing
- Faster refunds. The IRS processes electronic returns in about half the time of paper returns. And with direct deposit, you can receive your refund in as little as 10 days. (For more info about tracking the status of your refund, click here.)
- Greater accuracy. Electronic returns are automatically checked for administrative and mathematical errors. With a paper return, there's a greater risk of error by the preparer and a risk of data entry error by the IRS.
- Secure and confidential submission.
- Quick confirmation. The IRS acknowledges receipt electronically within 48 hours. If the IRS detects any errors, the return can be corrected and quickly refiled.
- No paper return to mail.
- File now, pay later. If you have a balance due, you can e-file your return today and wait until 15 April to pay. You can pay by check, or have the IRS directly debit your bank account. For an additional fee, you can pay by credit card. (Hamilton recommends against this option.)
Of the 41 states that have a personal income tax, 37 (plus the District of Columbia) participate in Federal/State e-file. The exceptions are California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
There's also a program called state-only e-file, which allows you to electronically file a state return through the IRS e-file system without an accompanying federal return. Exceptions to this program are the 4 states above, plus DC, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.
Ninety-nine percent of all individual income tax forms, and most business tax forms, can be e-filed. There are, however, a few types of returns that cannot:
- Amended returns (Form 1040X)
- Nonresident alien returns (Form 1040NR)
- Other than current year returns
- Returns with fiscal year tax periods
- Returns with Taxpayer Identification Numbers from 900-00-0000 through 999-99-9999, except valid ATINs and ITINs.
- Returns with greater than the permitted number of each form. For example, a return with more than eight copies of Form 1040 Schedule C cannot be e-filed.
- Returns claiming adoption benefits.