The Guide to eFile Your Tax Return

Everything You Need to Know to Do Your Income Return

Each year, United States taxpayers are required to file a federal tax return to be received and processed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Several different tax return forms are available for taxpayers based on the needs of individual and familial living situations, as well as several methods by which taxpayers are able to file their annual or quarterly taxes.

The Different Types of Tax Returns

There are several different tax return forms available in the U.S. for taxpayers that differ based on factors such as whether or not a taxpayer plans to claim dependents on their return and residential status (U.S. resident/Nonresident or Alien).

Taxpayers must choose the form that corresponds to their particular life situation in order to correctly claim their income, deductions, as well as any applicable credits. You may determine whether or not you are required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to file a U.S. federal tax return by reading our FAQ below.

The most common forms filed by U.S. taxpayers include:

Form 1040—U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

The 1040 is the standard federal tax return form used by individual U.S. taxpayers. Sometimes referred to as the “long form”, the 1040 is longer than both the 1040A and 1040EZ forms. It features the opportunity for taxpayers to claim a number of tax credits and expenses, as well as adjust their income and itemize deductions. This, in effect, provides one with more opportunity to potentially lower their tax bill.People who should file using Form 1040

While some taxpayers may be able to choose between filing a 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ, those who identify with any of the following are required to file a 1040 form:

● Have more than $100,000 taxable income within the fiscal year
● Owe household employment taxes
● Need to itemize deductions, adjust income, or claim tax credits
● Receive income that is derived from the following sources: farm income, business income, income that has been received as a beneficiary of a trust or estate, self-employment income, unreported tips, shareholder/partner income from an S corporation, or dividends on insurance policies that are above the total net premiums paid for the contract.

Form 1040A—U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

The 1040A is a 2-page “short form” individual income tax return that taxpayers who are not required to file the more extensive 1040 may choose as a simplified alternative. It is more complex than the shortest 1040EZ and is available for taxpayers of any age and filing status.

However, as a shorter form that covers less than the 1040, it does not allow for individuals to itemize their deductions, and there are also limitations on what tax credits a person may be able to claim.

Form 1040EZ—For Single and Joint Filers Without Dependents

The 1040EZ is the shortest standard income tax return designed for either single taxpayers or married couples filing jointly with no dependents. The shorter length of the form is less complex than both the 1040 and 1040A, and therefore, it also can be quicker to complete for those who are eligible to use it.

To be eligible to file your taxes with a 1040EZ, you must meet these requirements:

● You are not planning on claiming any credits other than the earned-income credit, nor any deductions
● You are not claiming any dependents
● Your income comes only from the following sources: wages; tips; salaries; unemployment income; taxable academic scholarships or fellowship grants; $1,500 or less of taxable interest; or Alaska Permanent Fund payments—for taxpayers residing within the state of Alaska.
● You and/or your spouse whom you are jointly filing your return with are under the age of 65.

Forms 1040NR & 1040NR-EZ — U.S. Nonresident Income Tax Return; U.S. Nonresident Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresidents without Dependents

The 1040A is a 2-page “short form” individual income tax return that taxpayers who are not required to file the more extensive 1040 may choose as a simplified alternative. It is more complex than the shortest 1040EZ and is available for taxpayers of any age and filing status.

However, as a shorter form that covers less than the 1040, it does not allow for individuals to itemize their deductions, and there are also limitations on what tax credits a person may be able to claim.

Additional Forms:

W4 Form—Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate

Although employers are nonetheless required to withhold income tax from all employee paychecks, the W-4 form is a form that you as an employee can complete in order to let your employer know how much money you wish to have withheld from your earnings to be put towards federal taxes. This form, which is comprised of a number of worksheets, can help prevent you from overpaying at tax time.

W2 Form—Wage and Tax Statement

The W-2 form is an important document to have on hand while filing a tax return as it details both the income that an employee has received through an employer and any taxes that were withheld. Taxpayers must receive their W-2 form through their employer, who is required to send individual W-2 forms detailing the earnings of the employee over the previous calendar year. Employers must send the W-2 to their employees no later than January 31st of the filing year.

How to Your File Tax Return: Methods & Steps

There are a few different ways individuals within the United States may file their tax returns. Whereas some prefer to stick to the more traditional method of mailing a physical form or having a tax professional handle the process, recent years have seen a rise in the popularity of choosing the online route of an efile tax return.

Learn how to do tax returns by browsing the methods and steps for filing as detailed below:

Traditional Paper Filing

In several respects, sending in a paper copy of a federal tax return form has become an obsolete method, as taxpayers are discovering more of the benefits that may be offered through alternative options.

Whereas individuals may be able to receive assistance in both preparing and filing their return online through a website or tax preparation software, filling out a form on one’s own carries its own responsibility.

Submitting your tax return by mail is also a more slothful process. Tax returns that are mailed in by taxpayers will most likely be processed slower, consequently dragging out the length of time it will take for the individual to receive their tax refund.

Efile Tax Return with Tax Preparation Software

If you are looking for a convenient, easy tax return filing process, filling out your efile tax return online and submitting it electronically is likely to be your ideal option.

Tax preparation software provide resources for individuals and are designed to help answer any questions a person may have; they generally simplify the occasionally-complex process. There are also free efile tax return options available online.

Read our compilation of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) provided below to learn more about the benefits of an efile tax return service vs by mail.

Hire a Professional

Many people still opt for the method of hiring a tax professional to handle whatever guesswork may be involved in thoroughly and accurately filing tax returns. This method is not as budget-friendly as the alternatives, and it also means you are handing over full control of your taxes to another person.

Hiring a professional to handle your taxes can be pricey, but it also can be convenient for those who do not have the time or otherwise do not feel confident in their ability to competently file their tax return on their own.

How to Preparing and Filing Your Return

If you are filing your federal tax return yourself—i.e. have not handed the responsibility over to a tax professional to complete for you—here are the general steps of submitting your annual tax return online or by mail.

1. Obtain/Access All Necessary Paperwork

If you are not filing online, the necessary paperwork includes the tax form itself. Otherwise, before beginning the process of filling out your tax return for the fiscal year, you will need to gather:

● All the IRS forms necessary for you to complete (including your W-2 and other income statements)
● Proof of health insurance coverage may be needed
● Additional supporting documents as applicable, such as charitable donation receipts, interest statements, and earning statements
● Your bank routing number and account number—for direct deposit purposes

As part of the preparation process, you may also wish to do a credit score check or ensure you have resolved any previous tax debt you may owe to the IRS.

At this time, or later on in the filing process, you may also determine how often the IRS may require you to pay your estimated taxes. That is, some taxpayers may be required to pay their estimated taxes quarterly on income that is not withholding, such as interest, income received through self-employment, and dividends.

2. Check Your Filing Status

You may determine your filing status by accounting for factors such as your marital status; whether you are filing your taxes separately or jointly if married; whether or not you identify as the head of household; as well as the amount of money that is paid by all members of your household to keep up your home.

Using the correct filing status when preparing your income tax return form is important as it determines how much you are required to pay, what tax benefits you are eligible to receive, as well as the amount of your standard deduction.

3. Choose Your Filing Method

Determine what method is most suitable for you—whether it be an efile tax return or paper filing—based on your current living situation. You may also check the IRS website to see if you qualify for their free tax preparation service, which is available for households below a certain income level, members of the military and their families, seniors, taxpayers with disabilities, or individuals who possess a limited understanding of the English language.

4. Calculate Your Total Taxes and Credits

At this point, you will be required to add up all your sources of income, including interest that you have earned through investment and banking accounts, retirement or pension accounts, as well as your salary if applicable. Taxpayers may also be eligible for credits and deductions such as those related to child care expenses, education, and charitable donations you have made throughout the fiscal year.

5. Claim Your Exemptions and Dependents

You will need to determine whether or not you can or are required to claim qualifying dependents, such as children or other relatives, on your return based on current rules set in place by the IRS. Exemptions that you may be able to claim refer to deductions from your and/or your dependents’ taxable income.

6. File or EFile Your Tax Return

Once you have completed the preparation process and are ready to file your form, you may choose from available tax return services to file your taxes using whatever method you have deemed most suitable for your living situation.

File your taxes the easy way by starting your efile tax return with us today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions taxpayers have about paying their annual/quarterly taxes.

How do I know if I need to file a tax return?

Whether or not you need to file a federal tax return depends on several factors, such as age, filing status, as well as whether or not your total gross income exceeds certain thresholds that vary in different populations.

Generally, individuals and joint taxpayers are required to file their returns in years in which their income exceeds the sum of the government’s fixed standard deduction and exemption amounts, which are posted annually before each filing season.

If your income is less than or equal to that fixed sum, then it is not taxable, and you are not required by the IRS to file a return for it for that specific year. Tax-exempt income should not be accounted for when determining whether or not you need to file a return.

Examples of tax-exempt income include:

● Income that is not subject to state, federal, or local taxes, such as veteran benefits, welfare benefits, and Social Security benefits
● Income received through investments such as qualified Roth IRA distributions, some death benefits, academic scholarships, tax-exempt interest, and municipal bonds.

Additional notes:

Senior taxpayers who are age 65 or older and who receive income through Social Security may receive more than other taxpayers before being required to file a return, unless you are married and file a separate individual tax return from your spouse.

Taxpayers who are claimed as a dependent on another person’s return—regardless of age—are subject to different filing requirements, as they are unable to claim their own exemption. However, dependents who receive unearned income are required to file a return if their unearned income—e.g. from dividends or interest—exceeds $1,050.

What are the benefits of doing my tax return online versus by mail or in-person with a professional?

While some taxpayers are under the impression that filing through traditional means or with the assistance of an in-person tax professional is the most secure and accurate method of filing a tax return, this is not necessarily the case.

According to the IRS, up to 20% of paper income tax returns have at least one mistake compared to the 1% error rate that may occur when filing online. Following that logic, many taxpayers who have had to suffer the consequences of errors on previous paper returns have instead turned to e-filing in order to avoid refiling a tax return to the IRS.

Additional benefits of e-filing include:

● Quicker Processing & Receive Refunds Faster—The IRS will be able to process your tax return quicker and thereby provide you with your refund faster. It can take up to six weeks for you to receive your refund when sending your return via mail, whereas you will be able to receive your tax refund comparatively faster through an online filing service.
● Direct Deposit into Your Bank Account—Direct deposit options may be available, allowing you to have your refund deposited directly into your chosen bank account once your form has been processed.
● Convenience—Overall convenience for taxpayers who may not have the financial means to hire a tax professional to prepare and file for them, or who otherwise do not have access to print materials that would be necessary for filing through the traditional mailing method.
● Proof of Filing—When you choose an efile tax return, you will receive proof of filing once you have successfully filed your form, as well as a notice once your return has been received and accepted by the IRS. When e-filing, you can generally expect to get notification that your return has been received by the IRS within 48 hours of filing.
● Secure—Sensitive information provided by taxpayers remains secure and encrypted throughout the process of e-filing through a credible online service to fulfill the utmost standards of confidentiality.

When do I have to file and when are the deadlines?

The tax deadline varies slightly year by year, but always falls on a day mid-April. Tax day for each year is announced in advance by the IRS for taxpayers filing both annual and quarterly tax returns.

For 2019, Tax Day—thereby the deadline to file your taxes for the year—will be on April 17th, 2019.

The official website for the IRS features a calendar for self-employed individuals and small businesses who pay quarterly taxes.

Special exceptions to the official tax deadline may apply to individuals who are serving in a combat zone or contingency and operate as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, or who are—at the time of the deadline—being hospitalized for injuries sustained under the same circumstances.

Is there any way to get an extension on a federal tax return filing date?

Others who require or would otherwise wish to request a filing extension may also do so by filing Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) no later than the original due date of the return.

How do I go about filing my return when living abroad?

Generally, the same rules that apply to U.S. taxpayers who are residing within the United States also apply to those who are living abroad. Individuals living abroad must be sure to file income taxes for their worldwide income.

One important difference to note is that those residing abroad are granted a two-month extension on filing their return without having to put in a formal request. However, any tax that is not paid by the April due date may result in the taxpayer being charged interest.

How much does it cost to e-file my taxes?

The cost of tax return services—including those available online—can vary. While there are some free e-filing services, including the official free tax preparation program offered to specific populations by the IRS, the cost for e-filing a federal tax return through reasonably-priced service can range from $20-80, as well as an additional $30-50 to file a state tax return.

To compare to other filing methods, the National Society of Accountants states that the average fee to have a professional prepare and file a simple 1040 form with no itemized deductions is $176. However, fees tend to be even higher in metropolitan areas, averaging at about $329 on the west coast to have a professional file a 1040, state tax return, and Schedule A.

Let Us Help You eFile Your Income Tax Return

Want to save money and time? Begin your e-file tax return with us today to get your maximum tax refund this tax season.

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