17 Million Tax Filers Made This Mistake Last Year

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KEY POINTS

  • People who file a tax return generally want their refunds right away.
  • One blunder on your part could delay your refunds for weeks, if not longer.


Did you make it, too?

It's pretty fair to say that most people don't like filing taxes. Some people even dread the process, in spite of the fact that they commonly receive a refund from the IRS once their returns are received and processed.

But if you're typically in line for a refund, the last thing you want is to have to wait extra time for that money to arrive in the mail or hit your bank account. But if you make this one mistake, you could end up subjecting yourself to a longer wait than necessary.

Are you going old school with your taxes?

Last year, more than 90% of tax filers submitted their returns electronically. But about 17 million filers sent in their tax returns on paper. That, in turn, has contributed to a massive backlog the IRS is now trying to dig out of.

While electronically-filed returns can be processed without getting a human involved, paper returns have to be processed manually -- there's no getting around that. And because the IRS is sorely understaffed, and has been for years, it's been taking the agency longer to process paper returns.

But even without extensive backlogs and delays, filing a tax return on paper can mean waiting twice as long to receive a refund. It commonly takes the IRS three weeks to issue a refund for tax returns that are submitted electronically. The usual turnaround time for refunds associated with paper returns is six weeks.

Plus, once you file an electronic return, you can immediately start tracking your refund to see when it might come in. You can't do that right away with a paper return. 

Avoid delays and mistakes

Filing taxes electronically won't just get you your refund faster. In many cases, it will also help you avoid errors that cause you a headache or result in your refund being held up.

To be fair, if you file a paper return that contains a very clear math error, the IRS will generally try to correct and resolve it for you rather than reject your tax return. But there are other errors filing electronically might help you avoid, like claiming the wrong tax-filing status or inputting the wrong Social Security number.

Plus, if you file electronically, you may be prompted to claim certain tax credits you wouldn't have otherwise gone after. When you file on paper, you won't get that same push.

All told, filing taxes on paper just doesn't make a lot of sense given the benefits of filing electronically and how easy it is to do so. You may be used to filing on paper because that's the way you've done things before. But if there were ever a time to try something new on the tax front, it's now.

Even though the IRS hopes to start the 2023 tax-filing season with a clean slate as far as its backlog goes, whether it can pull that off is yet to be determined. And so if you think you'll be in line for a refund next year, it pays to file your taxes electronically to avoid a needless delay.

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