Which is better? E-Filing vs Paper Filing

E-File vs. Paper File: Advantages, Features, and Benefits

In today's digital age, it might come as a surprise that filing a paper tax return is still an option. However, before you dismiss the notion of paper filing altogether, it's worth weighing the pros and cons of electronic filing versus paper filing outlined below.

Electronic vs. Paper Filing

Electronic filing (e-filing) involves submitting tax returns online, while paper filing entails mailing them. Taxpayers must decide whether to e-file or mail Form 1040, the U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, usually by the 2024 April 15 deadline each year.

In addition to personal tax returns, businesses are required to file separate business tax returns. It's crucial to file the appropriate forms based on your business entity type and to stay informed about the specific due dates for business tax returns.

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Benefits of Electronic Filing

Explore the advantages of e-filing outlined below:


Dealing with extensive paperwork during tax filing can be time-consuming and tedious.

One source indicates that the IRS processes electronically submitted returns within a day or two, while paper returns can take significantly longer.

The expedited processing associated with e-filing means quicker refunds for individuals and businesses—often within three weeks post-filing. Additionally, the IRS immediately acknowledges the receipt of an electronically filed return.


Accuracy is crucial for tax returns. E-Filing automates the calculation process, thereby minimising errors. Utilising specialised software or computer programs for e-Filing can further enhance accuracy, as these tools are designed to detect and flag errors during the filing process.

Moreover, should an error arise, rectifying it on an electronically submitted return is typically more straightforward.

Drawbacks of Electronic Filing

Explore the reasons you might choose against e-filing.


Not all taxpayers can or should file electronically. Despite its convenience, e-filing has certain restrictions.

For personal tax filings, the e-File system is not usable if you need to:

  1. Attach additional documents or statements (such as PDFs).
  2. File a return for someone who has passed away.
  3. Provide extensive details in the "additional information" section, but find it too limited.
  4. Please submit your return before the e-File service opens (January 28) or after it closes (October 20).

For more specific restrictions related to e-filing, you can refer to the IRS's official website.

Potential for Data Loss

While e-filing offers secure storage and backup solutions, technological failures can still occur.

The risk of data loss is an inherent concern with e-filing. If your computer or storage system fails, consider the implications for your tax information. Can you retrieve or replicate your lost data? It's crucial to consider how such a loss could impact your access to necessary records for future tax filings.

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Benefits of Paper Filing

Consider these advantages of paper filing as you decide between e-file and paper file.

Enhanced Privacy

While e-filing is convenient, paper filing may pose fewer security risks.

Opting for paper filing eliminates the need to input sensitive information online, safeguarding details like your name, address, and Social Security number from potential online threats.

Additionally, paper filing avoids the digital storage of tax information, potentially reducing the risk of identity theft or data breaches.

Simplicity and Accessibility

Paper filing does not necessitate the use of digital tools or platforms, which can be advantageous for those who prefer or find it more straightforward to use tangible documents.

For individuals who are more comfortable with a pen-and-paper approach or those less familiar with digital technology, paper filing offers a straightforward alternative.

Drawbacks of Paper Filing

Before you choose to file your taxes on paper, be aware of these disadvantages.

Extended Processing Duration

The need to physically mail paper filings means they take longer to process compared to electronic submissions.

While e-file transactions are processed within days, paper submissions can require weeks for complete processing. As a result, individuals might wait up to six weeks to get their refunds after mailing their tax returns.

Shorter Preparation Window

When opting for paper filing, the time needed for preparation and mailing should be factored into your planning. Procrastination can lead to missing critical deadlines, which can result in potential penalties.

To circumvent late fees, it's wise to commence the filing steps well in advance of the due date, such as beginning two months prior.

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What is e-filing?

E-filing, or electronic filing, refers to the submission of tax returns via the Internet directly to a tax authority, such as the IRS.

What is paper filing?

Paper filing involves manually completing tax return forms and mailing them to the tax authority, requiring physical handling and postal services.

How quickly can I expect my refund with e-filing compared to paper filing?

Refunds from e-filed returns are typically processed faster, often within three weeks, whereas paper-filed returns can take up to six weeks for processing and refund issuance.

Is e-filing more secure than paper filing?

E-filing is generally considered secure with advanced encryption technologies, but paper filing eliminates the risk of online data breaches, depending on one's perspective on digital security.

Are there any restrictions on who can e-file?

Yes, there are certain restrictions with e-filing, such as limitations for those filing after specific deadlines, filing decedent returns, or needing to attach extensive additional documentation.

Can I e-file my tax return for free?

Many taxpayers can e-file for free using IRS Free File or through various software providers if they meet certain income thresholds or other criteria.

What if I make an error on my e-filed return?

E-filed returns can be corrected and resubmitted more efficiently than paper returns. Additionally, many e-filing systems have built-in error checks that can prevent common mistakes.

Do all states allow e-filing for state tax returns?

Most states do allow e-filing for state tax returns, but the availability and rules can vary by state, so it's essential to check with your specific state tax authority.

What are the advantages of paper filing?

Some find paper filing to be more straightforward, less reliant on technology, and more within their control, especially for those wary of digital processes or who prefer tangible records.

How do I know if my e-filed or paper-filed return has been received?

For e-filed returns, filers typically receive immediate electronic confirmation. For paper returns, receipt can be confirmed through services like certified mail, although no immediate electronic acknowledgment is provided.

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