Last year Bill Dunn filed his federal taxes as usual. He used a tax software program on his home computer to calculate his taxes, printed his return and mailed it in to the irs. But months went by with no refund.
"I spent hours on the phone with the IRS," said Dunn. "I spoke to a number of people who all said that if we don't take care of your problem within the next two weeks, give us a call back, so I ended up calling back every two weeks and eventually I found that they had taken my return without processing it, shipped it off to a warehouse in the midwest and the answer I got was there it is, we know where it is, but it's not coming back."
Bill ended up having to refile his taxes. Recently, the IRS launched a program to encourage people who mail paper returns to go all electronic. "Free file" allows taxpayers to link to commercial tax preparation software through the irs website and file their federal income taxes online-for free.
But the American Bar Association says, do your homework before you begin.
"The 'free filing' program is available for over 60% of the U.S. tax payer population, so everyone does not qualify," said Herbert Beller, chairman of the American Bar Association's Taxation Department. "You have to go to the irs website and review the various factors to see if you do qualify."
Taxpayers who expect a refund and use free file could get their money from the IRS in as little as a week to ten days. Others may offer to get you your money faster. Be warned. It will cost you.
"Some of the commercial tax preparers on the website will be happy to sell you a so-called refund anticipation loan," said Beller. "There's a cost to this, the fees and the interest charges can be quite high and if you wait too long to pay off the loan, you're going to end up of course, with less money."
A few other tips before e-filing: look out for hidden charges such as a fee to "professionally review" your return. Keep your paperwork. Electronic filing may be paperless but that doesn't mean you should rely on your computer to store data and don't procrastinate. Free file is only available until April 15th.
Bill Dunn eventually got his refund --- in July. This year he is filing his taxes online. \