Is it Better to e-File or Paper-File My Tax Returns?

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Is it Better to e-File or Paper-File My Tax Returns?


If you have always filed paper tax returns, you may be thinking about switching to online returns. If you’re wondering, ‘Is it better to e-file or paper-file my tax returns?’, we’ve got you covered with a list of things to think about.

First, let’s look at one of the most common reasons people avoid making the move to digital tax returns. They fear that submitting their confidential financial details to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might not be safe. 


Identifying the Risks

If you’re wondering if it’s better to file my tax returns by paper or online, chances are, you are still filing hard copy returns. Most Americans who make the transition to digital tax returns don’t look back; they don’t question if they should file by paper. 

Of course, there are inherent risks to both. Let’s take a closer look at the risks of each.

  • I plan to file my tax returns by paper.

The risks of sending your tax return by mail come down to the odds of human error. You could forget to enter your Social Security number where required, for example. You could miscalculate your financial entries. You could forget to check your mailing address or mail your return to the wrong IRS service center. 

You could even miss tax credits or deductions that would work in your favor. It is unlikely that the IRS will catch these errors on your behalf. 

Of course, as with any documents sent by mail, there is a risk that it could be illegally intercepted. If someone opens your mail, with the intent to steal your personal information, you are automatically at risk. Although this is rare, it is possible. 

  • I plan to file my tax returns digitally.

The risks of submitting your taxes online are largely related to security. Many fear that their private data will be subject to theft by hackers or that their information will be lost. While these risks are always a possibility, they too, are low.

Keep in mind that some tax preparation tools are free, whereas others will cost a fee. If you have a more complex return, you will more likely need to pay to file your taxes online. 

  • So, if I file my tax returns by one method, it cancels the risks of the other? 

In short, yes. E-filing your taxes will minimize the risk of human errors and eliminate the need to mail hard copies. Similarly, filing a paper return will rule out the risk of data loss or compromise. 

Before you decide which of these fears you’d rather live with, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of each method. 


Benefits to Think About

By researching which tax filing method is better for you, you’ll likely find clues that help you decide. Some of these clues include the inherent benefits of each option. 

  • I plan to file my tax returns by paper.

If you’ve always filed your taxes by mailing a hard copy of your forms to the IRS, perhaps the greatest benefit of continuing paper returns is your familiarity with the process. Over the years, you’ve likely developed an innate sense of timing, knowing when to work on your taxes, to have them postmarked by the deadline. Staying in your comfort zone this way can feel like a benefit.

If your taxes are complex or you have rare filing details, you may need or want to file your return by paper. Currently, online systems are only set up for more straightforward situations. As a result, the more complex your taxes, the more likely you will want to file by paper. 

  • I plan to file my tax returns digitally.

The benefits of submitting your taxes online come down to convenience and speed. While it can take the IRS six months to process an individual income tax return by paper, online returns are usually processed within three weeks. If you are registered for direct deposit, where returns would be sent directly into your checking or savings account, the IRS suggests that you could receive your return even faster. 

Another benefit to e-filing your taxes is the built-in accuracy it provides. With automated calculations and prepopulated fields, there is less margin for error when you file your taxes online. Finally, for peace of mind, digital tax returns also provide immediate confirmation that they have been received. 

In addition to the risks and benefits of filing your taxes by paper or online, there are a few other things to keep in mind. 


Other Things to Consider

What are some of the other elements to think about when deciding whether to file my tax returns by paper or online? These two factors are often overlooked:

  • Timing

As mentioned, timing is a fundamental difference between online and paper tax returns. If you expect to receive a return and don’t want to wait months before receiving it, you should file your taxes electronically. 

In addition, if you determine that you don’t owe money to the IRS, you can e-file your tax returns as late as November. Exceptions may apply, so be sure to check the details of your situation or consult a professional tax team. 

  • Form Details

Naturally, there are form differences between paper and e-filed taxes. Depending on the software you use, you may or may not have step-by-step instructions to help you through your return. You may or may not be able to file your state taxes through a given form and you might not be able to make changes once the tax return has been accepted.

Before you select an electronic option for your taxes, make sure it has the right level of support, depending on your comfort level and the complexity of your tax return. 

Clearly, there are many variables to consider when you’re wondering whether to file my taxes by paper or online. If you decide to file online, it is important to find a program that works for you. While low-cost options may work well for taxes that are straightforward, the more user-friendly options will cost you money. As an alternative, you could take a load off your mind and have a professional submit your taxes for you.  


A Peace-of-Mind Alternative

When you’re wondering, ‘Should I e-file or paper file my tax returns?’, you likely have several concerns about safety, timing and accuracy. A great alternative to filing your own taxes is to give yourself peace of mind by using a professional. Experienced tax experts can easily manage your taxes, no matter how complex they are. Tax experts are up to speed on current tax laws and can often find additional tax credits or deductions that work in your favor. 

At Franskoviak Tax Solutions, we have helped thousands of clients with taxes and tax problems for more than 30 years. We provide comprehensive tax services with first-class expertise and a personalized, boutique-style approach. Speak to our team about personal and business taxes, IRS tax deadlines, payroll taxes, IRS tax relief and tax problems such as IRS tax notifications, payroll tax debt, delinquent taxes and more.

Start with a free consultation—we’re here to help you file your taxes and work through common tax problems.

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