The 411 on e-file: Fast, easy, secure and accurate

Did you wait weeks – or even months – last year to get your federal tax rebate? Or stand in line at the post office to mail your return and payment on April 15? Guess you weren’t among the 99 million or so people that the IRS says used e-file in 2010.

E-file (also known as “e file” or “efile”) is simply submitting your tax return online, rather than through the U.S. postal service. The benefits are easy to see:

* Because the IRS gets your refund faster, it can get processed faster and you can get your refund faster.

* Doing your taxes online and submitting them through e-file means computer software is double checking your work, so your return can be more accurate than if you did it by hand yourself.

* What feels more secure to you? Dropping your return (and possibly payment check) in an unsecured mailbox? Or submitting it online through the multiple layers of encryption and security used by IRS-authorized e-filing partners?

* Mail your return and you won’t know for sure that the IRS has it until you either get your refund check – or an IRS notice that they don’t have your return on file. By e-filing, you get immediate confirmation that the IRS has your return.

So who can e-file? Virtually anyone.

If your taxes are simple enough, and you made less than $58,000 last year, you may be able to use free tax preparation software and electronic filing through the Free File program, according to IRS.gov. You can also find plenty of online software programs from major financial names like H&R Block, that will help you prepare online taxes and e-file the forms. Many are free and some charge a nominal fee for additional services or more complicated returns.

Before you begin preparing your taxes online, the IRS recommends you have on hand:

* Your 2009 tax return

* Driver’s license, Social Security numbers for you, your spouse and dependants

* Your W-2 forms

* Forms that show how much interest you were paid (Form 1099-INT)

* Info on any refund, credit or offset of state or local taxes you received (Form 1099-G)

* All income and expense receipts if you’re a small business owner

* The totals you received if you got unemployment or Social Security benefits

Many Americans are finding e-filing a way to make preparing, filing and paying their taxes faster and easier. You can learn more about e-file at www.irs.gov/efile.