(BPT) – Filing taxes online has become more popular than ever. In fact, the rate of individual tax returns filed online hit an all-time high of 80 percent last year, according to the IRS. But filing isn’t the only step in the process that can now be accomplished with the help of online tools. Use digital technology to your advantage to make the complete process – from organizing receipts to claiming your refund – quick and simple.
“No longer do consumers have to sort through stacks of paperwork or wait in long lines at the post office during the dreaded tax season to successfully complete the filing process,” says Rebecca Smith, vice president of marketing for Master Lock. “There are now a number of digital tools that not only make the tax process faster and easier, but also offer increased security as they eliminate the risks associated with hard-copy files of important or confidential documents, such as checks or W-2 forms.”
Follow these tips for a secure and successful digital tax filing process:
1. Request electronic copies of your tax forms. Many employers offer workers the option to receive their W-2 forms electronically, instead of by mail. Eliminating the risk of postal delays or missed deliveries ensures that your W-2 will be delivered securely as soon as it is available. Plus, faster W-2s can mean faster tax returns.
2. Securely store documents online. Avoid the mess of a mound of paperwork by storing – and organizing – all your tax-related documents online. A secure service such as the Master Lock Vault (www.masterlockvault.com) ensures you’ll have easy access to all your files wherever you are and that none of your paper documents will ever be lost, misplaced, stolen or damaged. Not only can you upload PDF forms, you also can upload photos from your phone of important receipts and expenses for your records. All data is instantly synchronized between the website and the app.
3. Think taxes year-round. Don’t wait until you’re ready to file your taxes to start collecting and organizing the supporting documents you’ll need to complete your return. Avoid the scramble by capturing and uploading a digital image of your receipt each time you pay the babysitter or have a tax-deductible transaction, fill a prescription at the pharmacy or make a charitable contribution such as dropping off a clothing donation to your local thrift store.
4. Opt for direct deposit. If you’ve done everything else online, why request a hard-copy check when it comes time to claim your refund? When combined with electronic filing, direct deposit is the fastest way to get your refund. If you’re on the other side of the spectrum and find that you owe taxes, opt to pay online and you can avoid the long tax-season lines at the post office.
5. Call for help. Sometimes, outside advice is necessary, and you can now get the help you need without leaving home. Based on the complexity of your question, there are a variety of resources to turn to. For example, the IRS offers a toll-free hotline for tax questions during weekdays. Several tax-prep software providers also offer guidance via online forums or on their social media feeds.