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E-file: Income Tax Return Electronic Filing

Written by a TurboTax Expert • Reviewed by a TurboTax CPA

Updated for Tax Year 2022 • December 1, 2022 5:15 PM
OVERVIEW

Forget that paper tax return! Electronic filing (e-filing), online tax preparation and online payment of taxes are getting more popular every year. If you've wondered about e-filing, here are the answers to frequently asked questions, including why e-filing is a good idea, which states let you e-file, how much e-filing costs, and how soon you'll receive your refund.

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Why e-file?

Here are some reasons why electronic filing makes sense for most taxpayers:

  • Fewer mistakes Using tax software such as TurboTax substantially reduces errors. According to the IRS, 20 percent of income tax returns prepared on paper have mistakes, such as missing information or taxes calculated using the wrong tax tables; half of those errors cause folks to overpay their taxes. But only about 1 percent of returns prepared electronically contain errors. If there is a mistake on your return, the IRS can detect it and send back an error report in as few as 48 hours so that you can quickly fix the problem.
  • Speedier preparation You can get the job done a lot faster if you tackle it with your computer. Filing from your computer saves you the trip to the post office, too.
  • Faster refunds If you send in your return by mail, you can expect to wait up to six weeks for your refund. E-filing your return and electing to have your refund deposited directly into your bank account is the fastest way to get your tax refund. If, however, you still prefer to send the IRS a paper return, TurboTax gives you that option.

How will I know that the IRS has received my tax return?

Ever worry that your return might get lost in the mail? E-filing lets you rest easy. When you send a return by mail, you have no way of knowing if the IRS received your return unless you pay extra for certified mail with a return receipt. It could take weeks for you to get that receipt.

But if you file electronically, the IRS notifies you by email within 48 hours that it has received your return. And if the IRS detects any errors, it will send an error code that TurboTax will translate into a text message telling you what the problem is, how to fix it, and how to retransmit your return.

Can I avoid having to file anything on paper?

You can save more trees than ever using e-file. You can now file a completely paperless return, right down to your signature. You can use a self-selected Personal Identification Number (PIN) just as you would at a bank ATM. The PIN is your electronic signature.

Can I e-file my state tax return, too?

Generally, yes, you can also e-file your state tax return along with your federal tax return. Some states accept e-filed tax returns directly while other states have the return sent to the IRS first and then the return gets passed along to the state taxing authority.

Will my tax return data be kept confidential?

Yes. You've got no worries about data falling into the wrong hands or being misused because the IRS, the states and tax preparers are under the same rules of confidentiality for e-filed returns as they are for paper returns. They may not reveal or discuss any information contained in your return unless you authorize them to do so. Tax software developers also must operate under these rules, and they must protect customer confidentiality during the e-filing process. To ensure the integrity of your electronically filed tax return, always use only proven, high-quality e-filing software.

Can I e-file if I owe money?

Yes. You can still pay with a check sent via snail mail if you prefer. As long as the check is in the mail by the due date of your return the payment is considered to be on time. Or you can advise the IRS to debit your checking or savings account for the amount due. No matter when you file your return, you can tell the IRS not to tap your account until the due date. A third option is to charge the balance due to a credit card. This method will cost you extra money, though; you'll have to pay a "convenience fee" of about 2 percent to the third party that handles the transaction. States are gradually adding these options.

How much does it cost to e-file my return electronically?

If you're looking for an excuse not to e-file, it isn't cost, because the IRS and states do not charge for e-filing. The only costs associated with e-filing are those charged by a tax preparer or tax software. Depending on the software brand and version, electronic filing charges have ranged from free to around $25. Tax preparers may charge more.

If I'm getting a tax refund, when can I expect to receive it?

E-filing will deliver your tax refund much faster than traditional mail. Taxpayers using TurboTax and electing to have their refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts will get their fastest refunds possible.

Refunds from tax returns filed on paper can take up to six weeks, depending on the time of year you file your tax return.

Let an expert do your taxes for you, start to finish with TurboTax Live Full Service. Or you can get your taxes done right, with experts by your side with TurboTax Live Assisted. File your own taxes with confidence using TurboTax. Just answer simple questions, and we’ll guide you through filing your taxes with confidence. Whichever way you choose, get your maximum refund guaranteed.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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TurboTax Online: Important Details about Free Filing for Simple Tax Returns

If you have a simple tax return, you can file for free yourself with TurboTax Free Edition, or you can file with TurboTax Live Assisted Basic or TurboTax Live Full Service Basic at the listed price.


A simple tax return is one that's filed using IRS Form 1040 only, without having to attach any forms or schedules. Only certain taxpayers are eligible.

Situations covered (assuming no added tax complexity):

  • W-2 income
  • Interest or dividends (1099-INT/1099-DIV) that don’t require filing a Schedule B   
  • IRS standard deduction
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC)
  • Student loan interest deduction

Situations not covered:

  • Itemized deductions
  • Unemployment income reported on a 1099-G
  • Business or 1099-NEC income
  • Stock sales
  • Rental property income
  • Credits, deductions and income reported on other forms or schedules (for example, income related to crypto investments)


TURBOTAX ONLINE GUARANTEES

TurboTax Individual Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we'll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax. Excludes TurboTax Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.

  • Maximum Refund Guarantee / Maximum Tax Savings Guarantee - or Your Money Back – Individual Returns: If you get a larger refund or smaller tax due from another tax preparation method by filing an amended return, we'll refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state purchase price paid. (TurboTax Online Free Edition customers are entitled to payment of $30.) This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax. Excludes TurboTax Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.

  • Audit Support Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you receive an audit letter from the IRS or State Department of Revenue based on your 2022 TurboTax individual tax return, we will provide one-on-one question-and-answer support with a tax professional, if requested through our Audit Support Center, for audited individual returns filed with TurboTax for the current 2022 tax year and, for individual, non-business returns, for the past two tax years (2021, 2020). Audit support is informational only. We will not represent you before the IRS or state tax authority or provide legal advice. If we are not able to connect you to one of our tax professionals, we will refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state purchase price paid. (TurboTax Free Edition customers are entitled to payment of $30.) This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax. Excludes TurboTax Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.

TurboTax Business Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Business Returns. If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we'll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. You are responsible for paying any additional tax liability you may owe. Additional terms and limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.

  • TurboTax Audit Support Guarantee – Business Returns. If you receive an audit letter from the IRS or State Department of Revenue on your 2022 TurboTax business return, we will provide one-on-one question-and-answer support with a tax professional, if requested through our Audit Support Center, for audited business returns filed with TurboTax for the current 2022 tax year. Audit support is informational only. We will not represent you before the IRS or state tax authority or provide legal advice. If we are not able to connect you to one of our tax professionals, we will refund the applicable TurboTax Live Business or TurboTax Live Full Service Business federal and/or state purchase price paid. Additional terms and limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.

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TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE PRICING:

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. TurboTax Free Edition ($0 Federal + $0 State + $0 To File) is available for simple tax returns only (see if you qualify) and has limited functionality; offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices for paid versions are determined based on the version you use and the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.

  • TurboTax Live Assisted Basic Offer: Offer only available with TurboTax Live Assisted Basic and for simple tax returns only. Not all taxpayers qualify. Must file by March 31, 2023 to be eligible for the offer. Includes state(s) and one (1) federal tax filing. Intuit reserves the right to modify or terminate this TurboTax Live Assisted Basic Offer at any time for any reason in its sole and absolute discretion. If you add services, your service fees will be adjusted accordingly. If filed after March 31, 2023 you will be charged the then-current list price for TurboTax Live Assisted Basic and state tax filing is an additional fee. See current prices here.

  • Pays for itself (TurboTax Premium, formerly Self-Employed): Estimates based on deductible business expenses calculated at the self-employment tax income rate (15.3%) for tax year 2021. Actual results will vary based on your tax situation.

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  • TurboTax Live Full Service – Qualification for Offer: Depending on your tax situation, you may be asked to answer additional questions to determine your qualification for the Full Service offer. Certain complicated tax situations will require an additional fee, and some will not qualify for the Full Service offering. These situations may include but are not limited to multiple sources of business income, large amounts of cryptocurrency transactions, taxable foreign assets and/or significant foreign investment income. Offer details subject to change at any time without notice. Intuit, in its sole discretion and at any time, may determine that certain tax topics, forms and/or situations are not included as part of TurboTax Live Full Service. Intuit reserves the right to refuse to prepare a tax return for any reason in its sole discretion. Additional limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.

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  • Easy Online Amend: Individual taxes only. Included with TurboTax Deluxe, Premier, Self-Employed, Premium, TurboTax Live, TurboTax Live Full Service, or with PLUS benefits. Make changes to your 2022 tax return online for up to 3 years after it has been filed and accepted by the IRS through 10/31/2025. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice. For TurboTax Live Full Service, your tax expert will amend your 2022 tax return for you through 11/15/2023. After 11/15/2023, TurboTax Live Full Service customers will be able to amend their 2022 tax return themselves using the Easy Online Amend process described above.

  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2021 TurboTax products.

  • #1 online tax filing solution for self-employed: Based upon IRS Sole Proprietor data as of 2022, tax year 2021. Self-Employed defined as a return with a Schedule C/C-EZ tax form. Online competitor data is extrapolated from press releases and SEC filings. “Online” is defined as an individual income tax DIY return (non-preparer signed) that was prepared online & either e-filed or printed, not including returns prepared through desktop software or FFA prepared returns, 2021.

  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees. Limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.

  • 1099-K Snap and Autofill: Available in mobile app and mobile web only.

  • 1099-NEC Snap and Autofill: Available in TurboTax Premium (formerly Self-Employed) and TurboTax Live Assisted Premium (formerly Self-Employed). Available in mobile app only. Feature available within Schedule C tax form for TurboTax filers with 1099-NEC income.

  • Year-Round Tax Estimator: Available in TurboTax Premium (formerly Self-Employed) and TurboTax Live Assisted Premium (formerly Self-Employed). This product feature is only available after you finish and file in a self-employed TurboTax product.

  • **Invite a Friend: Rewards good for up to 10 friends, or $250 - see official terms and conditions for more details.

  • Average Refund Amount: Sum of $3252 is the average refund American taxpayers received based upon IRS data date ending 12/30/22 and may not reflect actual refund amount received.

  • Average Deduction Amount: Based on the average amount of deductions/expenses found by TurboTax Self Employed customers who filed expenses on Schedule C in Tax Year 2021 and may not reflect actual deductions found.

  • More self-employed deductions based on the median amount of expenses found by TurboTax Premium (formerly Self Employed) customers who synced accounts, imported and categorized transactions compared to manual entry. Individual results may vary.

  • TurboTax Online Business Products: For TurboTax Live Assisted Business and TurboTax Full Service Business, we currently don’t support the following tax situations: C-Corps (Form 1120-C), Trust/Estates (Form 1041), Multiple state filings, Tax Exempt Entities/Non-Profits , Entities electing to be treated as a C-Corp, Schedule C Sole proprietorship, Payroll, Sales tax, or Quarterly filings, and Foreign Income.

TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD GUARANTEES

TurboTax Individual Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax Desktop. Excludes TurboTax Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Maximum Refund Guarantee / Maximum Tax Savings Guarantee - or Your Money Back – Individual Returns: If you get a larger refund or smaller tax due from another tax preparation method by filing an amended return, we'll refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state software license purchase price you paid. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax Desktop. Excludes TurboTax Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Audit Support Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you receive an audit letter from the IRS or State Department of Revenue based on your 2022 TurboTax individual tax return, we will provide one-on-one question-and-answer support with a tax professional, if requested through our Audit Support Center, for audited individual returns filed with TurboTax for the current 2022 tax year and, for individual, non-business returns, for the past two tax years (2021, 2020). Audit support is informational only. We will not represent you before the IRS or state tax authority or provide legal advice. If we are not able to connect you to one of our tax professionals, we will refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state license purchase price you paid. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax. Excludes TurboTax Business returns. Additional limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

TurboTax Business Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Business Returns: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. You are responsible for paying any additional tax liability you may owe. Additional limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Maximum Tax Savings Guarantee: If you get a smaller tax due (or larger business tax refund) from another tax preparation method using the same data, TurboTax will refund the applicable TurboTax Business Desktop license purchase price you paid. See License Agreement for details.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee/ 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: If you're not completely satisfied with TurboTax Desktop, go to refundrequest.intuit.com within 60 days of purchase and follow the process listed to submit a refund request. You must return this product using your license code or order number and dated receipt.

TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD

  • Installation Requirements: Download option requires a free online Intuit account. Product activation requires internet connectivity. You must accept the TurboTax License Agreement to use this product. Not for use by paid preparers.

  • TurboTax CD/Download Products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees may apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees may not apply in certain states, check here for details. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase. Software updates and optional online features require internet connectivity.

  • Fastest Refund Possible: Fastest federal tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary. The IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

  • Average Refund Amount: Sum of $3252 is the average refund American taxpayers received based upon IRS data date ending 12/30/22 and may not reflect actual refund amount received.

  • TurboTax Product Support: Customer service and product support hours and options vary by time of year.

  • #1 Best Selling Tax Software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2021 TurboTax products.

  • Deduct From Your Federal Refund: A $40 Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.

  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; May require a free Intuit online account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2020 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2020 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.

All features, services, support, prices, offers, terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

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