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Publication 17

Why Should I File Electronically?(p8)


Electronic Filing(p8)

If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is less than a certain amount, you are eligible for Free File, a free tax software service offered by IRS partners, to prepare and e-file your return for free. If your income is over the amount, you are still eligible for Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms. Table 1-4 lists the free ways to electronically file your return.
Due date
IRS e-file uses automation to replace most of the manual steps needed to process paper returns. As a result, the processing of e-file returns is faster and more accurate than the processing of paper returns. However, as with a paper return, you are responsible for making sure your return contains accurate information and is filed on time.
If your return is filed with IRS e-file, you will receive an acknowledgment that your return was received and accepted. If you owe tax, you can e-file and pay electronically. The IRS has processed more than one billion e-filed returns safely and securely. Using e-file doesn't affect your chances of an IRS examination of your return.

Electronic return signatures.(p8)

To file your return electronically, you must sign the return electronically using a personal identification number (PIN). If you are filing online, you must use a Self-Select PIN. If you are filing electronically using a tax practitioner, you can use a Self-Select PIN or a Practitioner PIN.

Self-Select PIN.(p8)

The Self-Select PIN method allows you to create your own PIN. If you are married filing jointly, you and your spouse will each need to create a PIN and enter these PINs as your electronic signatures.
A PIN is any combination of five digits you choose except five zeros. If you use a PIN, there is nothing to sign and nothing to mail—not even your Forms W-2.
To verify your identity, you will be prompted to enter your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your originally filed 2016 federal income tax return, if applicable. Don't use your AGI from an amended return (Form 1040X) or a math error correction made by the IRS. AGI is the amount shown on your 2016 Form 1040, line 38; Form 1040A, line 22; or Form 1040EZ, line 4. If you don't have your 2016 income tax return, you can request a transcript by using our automated self-service tool. Go to (If you filed electronically last year, you may use your prior year PIN to verify your identity instead of your prior year AGI. The prior year PIN is the five-digit PIN you used to electronically sign your 2016 return.) You will also be prompted to enter your date of birth.

Table 1-4. Free Ways To e-file

Use Free File for free tax software and free e-file.
IRS partners offer name-brand products for free.
Many taxpayers are eligible for Free File software.
Everyone is eligible for Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms.
Free File software and Free File Fillable Forms are available only at
Use VITA/TCE for free tax help from volunteers and free e-file.
Volunteers prepare your return and e-file it for free.
Some sites also offer do-it-yourself software.
You are eligible based either on your income or age.
Sites are located nationwide. Find one near you by visiting
You can’t use the Self-Select PIN method if you are a first-time filer under age 16 at the end of 2017.

Practitioner PIN.(p9)

The Practitioner PIN method allows you to authorize your tax practitioner to enter or generate your PIN. The practitioner can provide you with details.

Form 8453.(p9)

You must send in a paper Form 8453 if you have to attach certain forms or other documents that can’t be electronically filed. For details, see Form 8453.
For more details, visit

Identity Protection PIN.(p9)

If the IRS gave you an identity protection personal identification number (IP PIN) because you were a victim of identity theft, enter it in the spaces provided on your tax form. If the IRS hasn’t given you this type of number, leave these spaces blank. For more information, see the instructions for Form 1040A or Form 1040.

Power of attorney.(p9)

If an agent is signing your return for you, a power of attorney (POA) must be filed. Attach the POA to Form 8453 and file it using that form's instructions. See Signatures, later, for more information on POAs.

State returns.(p9)

In most states, you can file an electronic state return simultaneously with your federal return. For more information, check with your local IRS office, state tax agency, tax professional, or the IRS website at


You can have a refund check mailed to you, or you can have your refund deposited directly to your checking or savings account or split among two or three accounts. With e-file, your refund will be issued faster than if you filed on paper.
As with a paper return, you may not get all of your refund if you owe certain past-due amounts, such as federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support, or certain other federal nontax debts, such as student loans. See Offset against debts under Refunds, later.

Refund inquiries.(p9)

Information about your return will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives your e-filed return. See Refund Information, later.

Amount you owe.(p9)

To avoid late-payment penalties and interest, pay your taxes in full by April 17, 2018. The due date is April 17 because April 15 is a Sunday and the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia is observed on April 16—even if you don't live in the District of Columbia. See How To Pay, later, for information on how to pay the amount you owe.

Using Your Personal Computer(p9)

You can file your tax return in a fast, easy, and convenient way using your personal computer. A computer with Internet access and tax preparation software are all you need. Best of all, you can e-file from the comfort of your home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
IRS approved tax preparation software is available for online use on the Internet, for download from the Internet, and in retail stores.
For information, visit

Through Employers and Financial Institutions(p9)

Some businesses offer free e-file to their employees, members, or customers. Others offer it for a fee. Ask your employer or financial institution if they offer IRS e-file as an employee, member, or customer benefit.

Free Help With Your Return(p9)

Free help in preparing your return is available nationwide from IRS-trained volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is designed to help low-to-moderate income taxpayers, and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program is designed to assist taxpayers age 60 or older with their tax returns. Many VITA sites offer free electronic filing and all volunteers will let you know about the credits and deductions you may be entitled to claim. To find a site near you, call 1-800-906-9887. Or to find the nearest AARP TaxAide site, visit AARP's website at or call 1-888-227-7669. For more information on these programs, go to

Using a Tax Professional(p9)

Many tax professionals electronically file tax returns for their clients. You may personally enter your PIN or complete Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, to authorize the tax professional to enter your PIN on your return.
Note. Tax professionals may charge a fee for IRS e-file. Fees can vary depending on the professional and the specific services rendered.