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Nine Tips for E-filing Your Tax Return

Tax preparer and client ready to e-file a returnWith less than a month to go before Tax Day, more taxpayers are considering e-filing their federal income tax returns. The IRS encourages taxpayers to e-file, citing it as the "safest, fastest and easiest way to submit their individual tax returns." Last year, nearly 100 million taxpayers took them up on it; since 1990, taxpayers have e-filed nearly 1 billion individual federal income tax returns.

With e-file, taxpayers can avoid common filing mistakes. This doesn't mean, however, that you shouldn't be careful. Following are a few e-filing tips to help you get your return to the IRS safely this tax season:
  • Organize your records before you begin. You'll need your current year tax documents as well as last year's tax return.
  • Sign your return. Yes, you'll "sign" your e-filed return, too, by entering last year's adjusted gross income or a five digit PIN (Personal Identification Number) that you create. To create a PIN, go to the IRS website and fill out its secure form.
  • Pay your taxes. If you e-file and you owe, you can send a check to the U.S. Treasury, pay by credit card or authorize an electronic funds withdrawal.
  • Get your refund. If you e-file and you're due a refund, you can arrange to have your check mailed to you or get it faster with direct deposit.
  • Be secure. If you e-file your tax return using third party online software, make sure that the connection is secure (one telltale sign is "https" in the URL).
  • Use common sense. If you use a shared computer, such as a computer at a public library, make sure you log out from the program and clear out the Web browser cache. It's recommended, however, that for the best security, you not use a shared computer.
  • Consider using an authorized IRS e-file provider. If you opt not to e-file on your own, you can use the Authorized IRS e-file Provider Locator to find a tax professional who has been accepted into the IRS electronic filing program.
  • Remember that the IRS doesn't charge to e-file. While your tax professional or software provider may charge a fee, the IRS doesn't charge a fee for electronic filing. If you qualify for free tax services, you may be able to e-file and not pay a thing.
  • Be careful. Finally, remember, if you receive an email purporting to be from the IRS that requires a response, do not click on it or respond directly. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email.

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