Steps to Prepare, e-file A 2018 Tax Return
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, education, home purchase, etc.). As a taxpayer, you either are 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. Almost all taxpayers can e-file their tax returns. Below is a list of reasons why you might not be able to efile your Taxes
2018 Tax Return Documents, Records
Step 1: Electronic Return Validation: Have your 2017 AGI, IRS and State Income Tax Return(s) handy
When you self-prepare and efile your 2018 IRS Tax Return, you will need to validate your electronically prepared return by entering your 2017 AGI - Adjusted Gross Income - on your 2018 return. If you have it handy now, skip to Step 2, otherwise read on.
- If you prepared and e-filed IRS and state accepted 2017 Federal and State Returns on efile.com, simply sign in and efile.com will provide the 2017 AGI while you prepare your 2018 return. You can find a copy of your Return and AGI under My Account in your efile.com account. Sign into your account.
- Find your 2017 AGI on line 37 of the Form 1040, line 21 of the Form 1040-A, or line 4 of the Form 1040-EZ.
- 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 2017 return regardless of the method of filing, see the same lines as listed above.
- If you don't have a copy of your 2017 returns and filed via another website (e.g. TurboTax, H&R Block), visit that site and download your return.
- If you can't access your previous year account, or don't have a 2017 paper/PDF tax return copy, get an IRS Transcript online or via mail. You can also call 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 efile your tax return, sorry.
Step 2: Gather your 2018 Documents, Receipts, and Dates
- 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 them and keep them as PDF's - 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!
- W-2 forms
- Pay stubs for the year
- Home mortgage payment stubs and/or home purchase closing statement
- Last year's tax return (for quick reference and comparison)
- Receipts from anything you might claim as an itemized deduction
- Receipts from any charity (e.g. for church tithes, disaster relief donations, etc.)
- Car mileage log (in case of business use)
- Any receipts for business travel expenses
- Canceled checks (especially for IRA contributions and other deductions)
- Credit card statements and bank statements (to verify any deductions)
- Medical bills (especially if they exceed 7.5% of your income)
- 1099-G form (for deducting state or local income taxes)
- 1099 forms (from any dividends or other income paid to you)
- Mobile phone bills (especially if you made charitable donations by text message)
Step 3: Estimate, Question Before You Prepare and e-File
- Get questions quickly and easily to your personal tax question(s) via these free efile.com tax tools.
- What is Taxable and Non Taxable Income?
- Go over these Tax Deductions and Tax Credits so you don't miss any of them.
- Find out who qualifies as your dependent, which tax credits and deductions you can claim, etc.
- Even if you expect a tax refund and want your refund money fast, we suggest you start entering your tax data on efile.com as your tax forms arrive by January 31: e.g. W-2 Form(s), 1099 Income Form(s), Bank Interest Statement(s), Mortgage Interest Statement Form(s), Investment related Forms, etc. However, only e-file your taxes once you are confident that you have entered all your required forms. Otherwise, if an important form is missing and you overlooked entering the related tax data on your income tax return, you will be required to prepare and file a tax amendment. Keep in mind that the IRS does not enable e-file for tax amendments; it's still a paper and mailing process.
- Contact an efile.com Taxpert with your personal tax question(s).
Step 4: Efile versus Paper Filing a Tax Return
- When you efile, get your tax refund faster (in as few as 7 days with direct bank deposit).
- Efile will calculate a more accurate tax return (1% error rate compared to 20% with paper tax returns).
- Efile will provide a secure efile submission process and keep 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.
- Get away from penalties; efile by April 15, 2019 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.
- Even if you cannot afford to pay all of your taxes by Tax Day, a tax return should be efiled to avoid any further tax penalties for failing to file on time.
- How to efile Federal and State Tax Returns
Step 5: Tax Return versus Tax Extension
Step 6: What to Do After You Prepared, e-filed
- Check the status of your e-filed IRS and/or state Income tax return.
- Keep a copy of your accepted tax return(s).
Step 7 - Last but not Least Step: At the beginning of each new tax year (as we are in 2019 now, you should start collecting now for Tax Year 2019), start collecting tax records, receipts, and documents (e.g. scan in documents), and start recording dates as they occur now so you will be ready for step 1 and 2 next year. For example, gather your income related documents (e.g. pay stubs, 1099 forms, social security statements, etc) and deduction related records (e.g. home purchase or sale, home mortgage records, property tax statements, tuition finance payments, etc.). You should also record moving dates if they apply to you (e.g. you might move across states as this 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 a previous year or back taxes, please visit this page for tax year specific forms and tax calculators.
Reasons You Can't efile Your Taxes
- If you are under 16 and have never filed a federal tax return.
- If you have $0 taxable income.
- If you are Married Filing Separately and live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin).
- If your current address is in American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
- If you are a U.S. nonresident alien (you are required to file Form 1040NR).
- If you have more than 4 states or localities on a single W-2.
- If you have more than 8 Schedules C.
- If you need to attach a written statement or additional documentation to your 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.