Although tax time is still half a year away it’s always a good idea to get started planning and organizing your finances as far in advance as possible. There are many factors that can complicate your tax filing, such as the purchase and sale of a house, changing marriage status, ownership of a small business or a major windfall or loss from investments. Even with all of these various situations many people handle their taxes themselves, and file online with the Internal Revenue Service. While purists have been slow to embrace e-filing, it’s becoming a more and more common way to handle your taxes. And while it comes with a whole host of benefits, there are some issues that could make it problematic for you. Here is a quick look at the pros and cons of filing your taxes online.
When it comes to speed, there’s no better option than online filing. Before e-filing you had to mail your tax return to the IRS. Mail can get lost or delayed, and you have no real guarantee of when it will reach their offices, or in what condition. With e-filing, your tax return gets to the IRS as close to instantly as possible. You get a receipt of the date and time they received it as well, so you can refer back to that if there are any issues. And if you are in line for a tax refund, you’ll always get it faster when you file your taxes online. You could even receive it as quickly as a week after you file. And the return can be automatically deposited in your bank account as well.
The only time when the speed of filing online could be considered a negative is if you’d prefer the processing of your return was slightly delayed. This can be the case if you owe more money in taxes than you currently have. If you’re waiting for a paycheck to clear to be able to pay your taxes, you can still send the check on time with your tax return in the mail. You’ll avoid the IRS late fees, and by the time they process your return and cash the check the money would have cleared on your side. When you file online, the money you owe will be withdrawn from your accounts much quicker, and could leave you with an overdrawn account and penalty fees.
As far as the expense of filing is concerned, filing online is basically the same as filing a physical return. Most people who file online purchase a piece of software that walks them through the process, and even offers audit protection in case you run into issues. While it can be pricey, it’s not any more expensive than if you were to hire a professional accountant to help you through a physical file. If you’re confident enough to handle the process yourself, you can now skip the software and use the free filing program offered by the IRS. Since physical filing is also free, it’s now basically a wash. In the end, it could still be a bit cheaper to file online, as you’ll save the postage.
Some people prefer to file physical copies because they are concerned about the security of filing online. But those concerns are now unfounded. While there’s always the possibility that some sort of security breach could occur, the IRS has the highest, government-level security checks and standards in place. In the end, it’s probably just as likely that someone steals your return and check out of the mail as it would be for your return to be hacked.
In the end, the largest cons of filing online might be access and comfort level. Not everyone has his own computer, and this isn’t the sort of thing you’d want to send from the library or a cyber café. And members of the older generation may not find online filing as easy as simply writing or typing it out. Tax filing is complicated enough, without a senior citizen worrying about missing fields, acrobat files or reference numbers pulled off of UTR.org.uk. For those people, standard filing will always be preferable. But if you consider yourself computer savvy there’s no longer any good reason not to file your taxes online.