Most taxpayers, whether they have their return done professionally or prepare it themselves manually or on computer, can elect to E-FILE, file their tax return electronically through a network of Electronic Return Originators (EROs) approved by the Internal Revenue Service. This network includes many accountants, tax preparation services, return transmission services, and some employers and financial institutions. Certain tax software providers will also offer electronic filing for their customers via web sites.

In most cases, an electronic return is not completely paperless. The ERO must provide the taxpayers with a Form 8453 - Declaration for Electronic Filing, which must be signed before the return is transmitted to the Internal Revenue Service. Attached to the Declaration Form may be paper forms that cannot be transmitted as part of the electronic file, which will vary with each return. (Note: If you receive an electronic filing packet in the mail, which contains a code number you can use as an "electronic signature," your return may be able to be filed paperless through an approved software vendor or participating Electronic Return Originator. Only those who receive a special packet in the mail can use this alternative.)

Electronic filing provides the fastest and most dependable way of filing, whether you are due a refund or have a balance due. Usually within 48 hours, your return is accepted and you receive a written confirmation of that, relayed via your ERO.

If you are due a refund, you can elect to have it wired directly to your checking account, which would generally take only 10-16 days after filing. If you prefer to receive a check in the mail, that usually takes about 17-23 days, plus a few days mailing time.

Those who owe a balance on their return may have the return transmitted earlier, and then simply pay the balance due before the due date of the return.

There are now three methods possible to pay the balance due on a return that is filed electronically:

1. By check. The ERO will give you Form 1040V, which you mail in with your check by the tax deadline.

2. By direct debit. You can request that the funds be electronically debited to your checking account on the tax deadline, or any earlier day you choose.Your account information must be part of your tax filing.

3. You can arrange for credit card payment via US Audiotex, which will charge a fee for that service. MasterCard, Discover/Novus or American Express are accepted (Note: NOT Visa). Call 1-888-2PAYTAX for information.

Users of TurboTax or MacInTax may also be offered an alternative method of tax payment via Discover/Novus ONLY; check your software documentation for details.

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