You want to e-file your tax return this year so you've gone to a paid tax professional to get the job done. You'd better double check.
Not all tax preparers are EROs.
ERO stands for Electronic Return Originator. Basically, these folks that the Internal Revenue Service has accepted as electronic transmitters of a filer's tax return information to the agency.
An ERO generally is the first point of contact for many taxpayers who electronically file their taxes. They typically advertise their services by displaying "Authorized IRS e-file Provider" signs in their tax office windows or icons on their websites.
And while an ERO may also provide tax return preparation services, that don't have to do that. Tax preparation and e-filing are separate and different tasks.
Forced e-filing: The IRS has been nudging, some would say vigorously pushing, tax preparers to e-file returns.
Since 2012, the IRS demanded that "any tax return preparer who anticipates preparing and filing 11 or more Forms 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ and 1041 during a calendar year" use e-file to submit the 11-plus returns.
Not all are doing so, however.
Robert D Flach, a tax professional for more than 40 years, is still preparing returns sans computer assistance and fighting the good e-file battle.
"I have never used flawed and expensive tax preparation software to prepare federal income tax returns. And at this point in my career, with only 8 tax seasons left before retirement, I have no intention of ever doing so," says Flach, known in the blogosphere as The Wandering Tax Pro. "As a result I cannot submit federal income tax returns electronically. I prepare all 1040s and 1040As for clients manually."
Flach's clients then personally mail the IRS the paper returns that he prepares for them. That's one of the exceptions to the professional preparer e-filing mandate.
E-filing continues to grow: Many tax pros, however, have shifted gears and are EROs/Authorized e-file Providers. The reason? More and more taxpayers want to e-file.
The IRS crossed the billion e-filed returns mark back in 2011. That e-tax trend has continued.
In 2013, of the more than 148 million federal tax returns filed, more than 122.5 million, or almost 83 percent, were e-filed.
And while individual taxpayers are getting more comfortable e-fling their own 1040s, most of 2013's e-filed returns were submitted by tax professionals.
File yourself using tax software that you purchase or that is available online.
Or, if your adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less, use Free File.
Free File is available now. Everyone else can file online starting tomorrow, Jan. 31, when the 2014 tax filing season finally officially opens.
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