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How to e-File a 2020 Tax Return

Over 71 million self-prepared returns were e-filed in 2020*)
Why eFile? Find out!

Taxes are dynamic as tax laws change, income tax rates or brackets adjust by tax year, and the lives of taxpayers change (e.g. marriage and filing status, education, home purchase or expense). As a taxpayer, you are either going to keep your hard earned income or you are going to hand it over to tax agencies, thus tax planning and tax return preparation is important. Filing electronically is available to almost all taxpayers, but there are reasons why you might not be able to e-File your taxes.

When you complete and eFile your 2020 Tax Return on eFile.com, the e-File tax app will select the correct 2020 Tax Return forms for you based on your income, deduction, charity statements, etc. Simply answer a few questions during the tax interview and enter your data to allow the eFile app to select the proper forms.

Tax Return Preparation and e-Filing Steps

Take a look at this Tax Return Preparation Guide to start with.

Step 1: Have your 2019 Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI, IRS and State Income Tax Return(s) handy

When you self-prepare and e-File your 2020 IRS Tax Return, you will need to validate your electronically prepared return by entering your 2019 AGI on your 2020 return. If you have it handy now, skip to Step 2, otherwise read on.

  • If you prepared and e-filed IRS and state accepted 2019 Federal and State Returns on eFile.com, simply sign in and eFile.com will provide your 2019 AGI while you prepare your 2020 Return. You can find a copy of your return and AGI under My Account in your eFile.com account. Sign in here.
    • Find your 2019 AGI on line 8b of the Form 1040
    • The line number on your state tax return will depend on the state you filed - check your eFile.com return.
  • If you have a paper or PDF file of your 2019 Return regardless of the method of filing, see the same lines as listed above.
  • If you don't have a copy of your 2019 Return(s) and filed via another website, visit that site and download your return.
  • If you can't access your previous year account, or don't have a 2019 paper/PDF tax return copy, get an IRS Transcript online or via mail. You can also call 1-800-908-9946.
  • If you have been issued an Identity Protection (IP) PIN by the IRS via a CP01A, you need to have this handy and enter it when eFile.com prompts you. It will serve to verify your identity.
  • If you are a first-time eFiler on eFile.com over the age of 16, enter zero as your AGI. If you are under age of 16, you cannot e-file your tax return on eFile.com

Step 2: Gather your 2020 Documents, Receipts, Statements

  • Print a detailed tax preparation checklist or use the list of documents, receipts, etc. below to gather all necessary document for your tax return. Tip: Scan and keep them as PDF's - you may be able to scan with a compatible printer/scanner and there are very easy-to-use mobile phone PDF scan apps. If you take this route, remember to back up your computer or mobile phone!

Step 3: Estimate, Question Before you Prepare and e-File

Step 4: Paper Versus e-Filing a Tax Return?

  • When you e-File, get your tax refund faster (in as few as 7 days with direct bank deposit). See what your refund date could be with this free DATEucator.
  • Efile will calculate a more accurate tax return (1% error rate compared to 20% with paper tax returns) on our secure submission process while keeping your personal information private.
  • With eFile, get instant notification of receipt and check the status of your tax return or tax refund anytime.
  • Get away from paper; no more trips to the post office and it's good for the environment.
  • Avoid tax penalties; eFile your return or extension by April 15, 2021 or earlier to avoid late fees and pay later even if you can't afford it now.
  • Get your tax return to the right place; don't worry about which processing center to send it to and avoid dealing with the frequent address changes that paper filers face.
  • How to eFile Federal and State Tax Returns. With eFile.com, you can e-file your federal and state returns together. You can also file multiple state returns on the eFile app.
  • See also: why to choose eFile.com as your tax preparation service.

Step 5: Tax Return versus Tax Extension?

  • Should I file a tax return or tax extension? If you are unable to prepare your return by Tax Day, consider filing an extension as it may lower your penalties. Filing an extension is not free, extra time - use it to gather your information and file as soon as possible.
  • What to do if you can't pay taxes you owe? If you owe or think you may owe taxes, find ways to pay taxes or look into an IRS Tax Payment Plan.

Step 6: What to do After you Prepared, e-Filed

  • Check the status of your e-filed IRS and/or state Income tax return. See when your refund will be deposited or mailed.
  • Keep a copy of your accepted tax return(s). Your past returns may be used when preparing current year returns. 

Step 7:  The Last but not Least Step

At the beginning of each new tax year, start collecting tax records, receipts, and documents. Begin recording dates as they occur now so you will be ready for Steps 1 and 2 next year. For example, gather your income related documents (pay stubs, 1099 forms, social security statements) and deduction related records (home purchase or sale, home mortgage records, property tax statements, tuition finance payments). You should also record moving dates if they apply to you. You might move across states, which will impact your state tax returns or you might move to foreign countries and generate income there.

Start Your Return Now

If you have to prepare and file for a previous year, or back taxes, please visit this page for tax year specific forms and tax calculators.

Reasons You Can't e-File Your Taxes

You may be unable to e-file a 2020 Return. Below, find a list of different reasons that may prevent you from e-filing your tax return:

Even if you cannot file electronically, you can still use eFile.com to prepare your return, but you will need to print and mail your return if any of reasons above are true.

More Resources on eFile.com

See the history of electronic filing and tax return statistics.

View past revisions of the base IRS income tax form, or Form 1040. Then, view the current versions of 2020 Form 1040.

Utilize this page of free tax calculators to know information about your 2020 Return before you begin to file or e-file.

Find tax savings and learn how to save money on your taxes each year.

*) IRS e-File Tax Report