Tax Returns Pages

How to Prepare, e-File a Tax Return


Filing your taxes online can be simple if you come ready with all your tax forms. This page details how you can be prepared to e-file your taxes instead of mailing them in. Explore the benefits of electronic IRS and state tax return filing this year and learn how to get it done by Tax Day.

Key Points:

  • Preparation for e-filing: Gathering all necessary tax forms and documents is crucial for a smooth online filing experience. This ensures accuracy and avoids delays in IRS processing.
  • Benefits of e-filing: Electronic filing offers advantages such as faster processing times, simpler direct deposit for refunds, and reduced error rates compared to paper filing.
  • Steps for e-filing: Steps include verifying personal information, accurately reporting taxable income, selecting the correct filing status, and ensuring all required forms are included before submission.
  • Considerations for non-e-filers: Get immediate confirmation of receipt when e-filing; no more worrying if the IRS received your return or wondering where your refund is.

Taxes are dynamic since tax laws change and income tax rates or brackets are adjusted each year. As a taxpayer, you are either going to keep your hard-earned income or you are going to hand it over to tax agencies only to get it back as a tax refund. Because of this, tax planning and tax return preparation are important. Filing electronically is available to almost all taxpayers, but there are reasons why you might not be able to e-file your taxes.

Tax Return Preparation and e-Filing Steps

Important: To avoid IRS processing delays, be sure your information entered is accurate and honest.

When you complete and e-file your current tax return on, the eFile Tax App will select the correct tax return forms for you based on your income and deduction statements or documents. Simply answer a few questions during the tax interview and enter your data to allow the eFile app to select the proper forms. You do not need to verify your face to e-file your taxes or submit a "live selfie" to create a free eFile Account! It's free to start; review our tax services for applicable fees and compare eFile to popular tax filing platforms.

How to File Taxes, Step-by-Step

Take a look at this tax return preparation guide to start with. Use the steps below to prepare your taxes. Filing your own taxes is as simple as following the steps below: will handle the complicated forms and calculations for you.

Step 1: Estimate and question before you e-file your returns.

Step 2: Gather the documents, receipts, and statements that apply to this year's return.

See a list of end-of-the-year tax tips and print a detailed tax preparation checklist or use the list of documents, receipts, and other documents below to gather all necessary figures for your tax return.

Tip: Scan and keep your documents as PDFs! You can use a compatible printer/scanner, and there are very easy-to-use mobile phone PDF scan apps. Remember to back up your computer or mobile phone if you take this route!

Over 63 million self-prepared tax returns were e-filed in 2024*) Why eFile? Find out!

Step 3: Have last year's adjusted gross income (AGI) and a copy of last year's IRS and state income tax return(s) handy.

When you self-prepare and e-file your IRS tax return, you will need to validate your electronically prepared return by entering your previous year's AGI on your current return.

  • If you e-filed your return on last year, then sign in and eFile will provide the relevant AGI when you file your current return. You can find a copy of your return and AGI under My Account in your account: sign in here.
    • Find your AGI on line 11 of Form 1040 for the specified year
    • The line number on your state tax return will depend on the state you filed - only certain states require an AGI to e-file.
  • If you have a paper or PDF file of your return, regardless of the method of filing, see the same lines listed above. If you don't have a copy of your return(s) and filed via another website, visit that site and download your return. If you can't access your previous year's account or don't have a 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 must have this handy and enter it when prompts you. It will serve to verify your identity.
  • If you are a first-time eFiler on over the age of 16, enter zero as your AGI. If you are under the age of 16, you cannot e-file your tax return on, but you can prepare and mail it in.

Step 4: What to do after you e-filed your return.

Step 5: 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 would impact your state tax returns or you might move to a foreign country and generate foreign income there.

Comparison: e-Filing, Paper Filing, and Tax Extensions

Which to choose: Paper versus e-filing a tax return?

  • When you e-file, get your tax refund faster (in as few as seven days with a direct bank deposit). See what your refund date could be with this free DATEucator. With eFile, get instant notification of receipt and check the status of your tax return or tax refund anytime.
  • eFile will calculate a more accurate tax return (1% error rate based on user-entry compared to 20% with paper tax returns) on our secure submission process that keeps your personal information private.
  • 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. Get away from paper; no more trips to the post office and it's good for the environment.
  • Avoid tax penalties; e-file your return or extension by Tax Day, generally on or around April 15, or earlier to avoid late fees and pay later even if you can't afford it now.
  • How do you e-file federal and state tax returns? With, you can e-file your federal and state returns together. You can also file multiple state returns on the eFile app.

See also: Why should you choose as your tax preparation service.

Ask yourself: Do I need a tax return or a 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 extra time to pay - use it to gather your information and file as soon as possible. If you do not owe taxes, you do not need to file a tax extension.
  • What to do if you can't pay the 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.

Start Your Return Now

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

Reasons You Can't e-File Your Taxes

You may be unable to e-file your return based on certain situations determined by the IRS and/or states. 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 generally still use to prepare your return, but you will need to print and mail your return if any of the reasons above are true.

More Resources on

*) IRS e-File Tax Report