E-Filing Benefits

Accountant Allan Ratafia tries to make tax time as painless as possible for his clients by filing their returns electronically.

"When you file electronically, it's nothing more than just pressing a button, and it's filed. You don't have to deal with the issues of mail, and sending it in that way. It's very efficient."

If you don't have the luxury of hiring a professional, you can still file your taxes electronically, either online or by using a store-bought or downloaded tax program.

Whichever route you choose, Greg Daugherty of Consumer Reports says there are definite benefits.

"Historically, refunds from e-filed returns are processed in about 10 days. If you mail your return, it could take several weeks. And you're also less likely to make a mistake when you e-file, so you're less likely to get one of those scary letters from the IRS," says Daugherty.

If you earn $54,000 or less, the IRS offers a free program for filing your federal returns electronically. Just go to IRS.gov and click on freefile, and you'll find 19 tax prep programs.

If you owe the government money and you're filing electronically, you can authorize the IRS to debit your bank account on the April 15th deadline, regardless of when you file. Uncle Sam also accepts credit and debit cards.

"And, if you're expecting money back and have it directly deposited to your bank, the IRS has a relatively new option where you can have it split among three different accounts," says Daugherty.

Consumer Reports says another plus of filing through cyberspace is that not only do you get your refund quicker, you also reduce the chances of having it lost or stolen en route.

For more information on e-filing, visit the IRS website:

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