Individual Income Tax Electronic Filing FAQs
- Electronic Filing Overview
- Returns Eligible for e-File
- Using e-File Systems
- e-File Options
- Software and Website Questions
- Contact Us
What is Electronic Filing?
Electronic Filing or e-File is the process of submitting your personal income tax return over the Internet using a computer and tax preparation software. The terms "online" and "electronic" are used in the same way to reference using the Internet to file your tax return.
What are the Benefits?
- Get your refund faster – e-Filed refunds are issued within 1 week for Direct Deposit and within 2 weeks for a Refund Debit Card. The refunds from paper filed returns will take up to 4 weeks for Direct Deposit and 5 weeks for a Refund Debit Card.
- Proof of Receipt – confirmation that your return was received and accepted (or rejected)
- Convenient – available online 24 / 7. File your federal and Virginia state tax return at the same time.
- Easy – more user friendly with step-by-step instructions
- More Accurate Processing – fewer math errors because the software catches many mistakes
- "One Stop Shop" – prepare and file your federal and Virginia tax returns at the same time
- Electronic Banking – convenience of Direct Deposit for refunds and Direct Debit for payment of tax owed
- Warehouse payments – file now and pay later. Decide what day we debit your bank account for your tax payment.
- Saves paper and postage – no mailing of paper returns or W-2 statements
- Safe and secure – safer than mailing your tax return
Is e-File Secure?
Yes! Over 2.9 million Virginia taxpayers filed their tax return electronically last year.
Electronic filing is more secure than mailing a tax return. An electronic return is encrypted and cannot be read as it is being transmitted from your computer.
The key to safety begins with you and your computer. Always make sure your computer is using current anti-virus software and anti-spyware software. You should also have a firewall to protect your computer while on the Internet. For more information on protecting your personal information online, refer to the Citizens Guide to Online Protection.
When using any website to transmit personal data, look for a "closed lock" icon on your screen, generally in the lower right-hand corner. This shows that you have a secured/encrypted link. You should also see an "s" added to the end of the “http” in the address line at the top of your screen. This means it is a secure/trusted site. If you do not see these security indicators, do not reveal your personal data.
All Free File and paid e-File vendors must adhere to the strict privacy standards of the IRS.
Can I e-file any type of return?
These returns are eligible to be e-filed, but you must still confirm that the e-File option you choose supports the return(s) you want to file.
Returns that can be e-filed include:
- Resident Returns (Form 760)
- Amended Resident Returns (Form 760)
- Part-year Resident Returns (Form 760PY)
- Amended Part-year Resident Returns (Form 760PY)
- Nonresident Returns (Form 763)
- Amended Nonresident Returns (Form 763)
- Deceased returns, including joint returns filed by spouses
- Prior year returns
Returns that cannot be e-filed include:
- Fiduciary returns (Form 770)
- Returns containing withholding reported on Form 4852, substitute W-2 or 1099-R
- 763-S Virginia Special Non-resident Claim for Individual Income Tax Withheld
How do I use e-File?
All e-File software is designed so that you navigate through a series of questions asking only for the information needed based on the type of return you are filing. All e-File software will automatically check for completeness, correct errors, generate the applicable schedules and transmit the return from your computer to the IRS’s system and to the Virginia Tax Department’s system.
There are three ways to e-File your return – Free e-File, Paid e-File, and Free Fillable Forms e-File.
Free File – a free federal and state income tax preparation and electronic filing program for eligible taxpayers that was developed through a partnership between groups of private sector tax software companies. Eligible customers may prepare and e-file their federal and state income tax returns for free using online software provided by specific Free File vendors.
Paid e-File – for customers that do not meet the eligibility criteria for Free File. You pay a small fee to software vendor to prepare and e-File your federal and state return. There are various software programs available online and for purchase in stores that provide e-File capability.
Free Fillable Forms e-File – an electronic version of the paper forms that you fill in online with the added bonus of being able to electronically file the return when you complete it. There are no income eligibility requirements. Any Virginia resident can complete the resident return and schedules using Free Fillable Forms. The program provides basic mathematical calculations and basic field error checking. It does not ask about / explain tax situations, automatic calculations or do extensive error checking. The program only supports the Virginia resident return and schedules; it does not support the federal return.
Do I have to download software?
Most e-File software is accessed directly from the e-File company website and your return is filed from that website. All websites are equipped with the latest encryption program to safeguard your information. However, if you purchased off-the-shelf software from a store, then you have to install it on your computer using the CD.
Why are e-filed returns more accurate?
All e-File software checks for math errors and calculations, which reduces mistakes. It will also prompt you only for the applicable information that is needed based on the type of return you are filing. In addition, most software will remember you the following year, dramatically reducing the need to re-enter information.
How do I sign my return?
With e-File software, customers sign their return using an electronic signature by creating an electronic personal identification number (PIN). Simple step-by-step instructions are provided in the software to help you set up a PIN. Your federal return will require you to enter a separate PIN from your state return.
Do I still need to mail in my W-2 and 1099 statements?
No. You will enter all of the applicable information from your W-2s and 1099s into whichever e-File software you decide to use. Once you provide the information electronically, you retain all paper copies of the W-2s and 1099s with your tax records.
How do I pay if I owe?
You have multiple options to pay the tax due on your e-filed return.
Direct Debit – e-File software allows you to pay your tax due through an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) direct debit. Simply identify your bank account information and the date you want to make the payment, so your tax can be paid electronically.
Credit Card – You can pay by credit card by calling a toll-free service 1 (800) 272-9829 by visiting the Official Payments website.
Check – If you do not want to pay electronically, you may e-File your return and mail a paper check for your payment.
Online Services – The Virginia Department of Taxation's Online Services for Individuals is a free online tax payment system that allows you to make payments directly from your checking or savings accounts. This can only be used after the return has been filed.
If I have a balance due and can’t pay right now, is there a payment plan available?
Paying your taxes in full and on time avoids unnecessary penalties and interest. However, if you cannot pay your taxes in full, file your return without the payment.
When you receive a bill for the tax due from the Department, you should contact the Virginia Department of Taxation Teleplan at (804) 440-5100 to set up a payment plan.
If I use a tax preparer, may I still electronically file?
Yes, most tax preparers are authorized to e-file your return for you. Please let your tax preparer know that you want your return to be e-filed.
Who is eligible for Free File?
Each participating software company sets its own eligibility requirements and not all customers will qualify for all companies. Generally, the eligibility criteria are based on one or more of the following:
- Federal adjusted gross income
- Active military status
- Earned Income Tax Credit qualification
Carefully review the Free File offer criteria before selecting the company.
With Free File you will need to file your federal and state tax return together at the same time.
The IRS has more vendors that offer free Federal e-File options than Virginia has listed on their page of vendors that offer free Federal and free State e-File. If you start with the IRS.gov website, select one of the Virginia Free File vendors or you may find that while your federal return is free you may end up being charged a fee for your state return.
How do I get started with Free File?
Review our list of Free File vendors and their specific eligibility criteria. If you go directly to the IRS website to access a Free File vendor, you may select one that DOES NOT support free e-File of the Virginia return. Please select a product from our Free File page to assure yourself the opportunity to e-File both your Federal and Virginia returns.
Determine if you qualify for Free File and select your vendor. After choosing a company, click on the company’s name to visit their website. You will be notified that you are leaving the Virginia Tax Department website to be sent to a Free File software website.
You start the process by preparing your federal return first, followed by your Virginia return.
If you determine after you start preparing your tax return with a particular company that you are not eligible for that company’s Free File service and you may be subject to a fee, you have the following options:
- Return back to our site and review the list of Free File vendors again and select another company that you may qualify for OR
- Continue completing your return and pay the e-File fee.
Is there a charge to electronically file my return with Free File?
Depending on your eligibility with Free File, there is no charge to file both your federal and state tax return. You must select from one of the Free File vendors that support Virginia.
If you do not qualify for Free e-File, you may still use e-File but you will be charged a nominal fee to e-File. We suggest you review all of your options to find the best option that’s right for you. Review these Paid e-File vendors for details.
I qualify for Free File, so why is the product I selected trying to charge me?
Depending on the software option you select, you may need to create a new account in order to get your Federal and State return for free. If you already have an established account, their software product is redirecting you to the product you last used and is therefore asking for a fee. The easiest way to ensure you are using the free product is to access Free File from the Virginia Department of Taxation's website and follow the instructions to create a new account with the software product.
I have already filed my Federal return, can I e-File just my Virginia return?
Yes, some software products allow you to file your Virginia return for free and separate from the federal return you already filed. In order to complete your state return with their product, you must enter your federal return information again. DO NOT file that "second" federal return; only file the State Virginia tax return in this scenario.
However, other software products require you to file both the federal and state return at the same time with their product in order to obtain the free file offering. Review each product carefully.
If I'm filing jointly, with my spouse, does the Adjusted Gross Income limitation apply to my spouse and I separately or combined?
If you are filing using the Married Filing Jointly filing status, the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) criteria applies to the AGI for both of you combined.
If I bought tax preparation software at the store, may I use Free File to file it for free?
No. Store bought software programs cannot be used in conjunction with the Free File program. Online returns must be prepared and filed through the specific website provided by the Free File vendor on the Virginia Tax Department website.
I want to use Free Fillable Forms. Where can I learn about it?
A separate FAQs page detailing information for the Free Fillable Forms option is available here.
What options do I have with Paid e-File?
The list of approved software vendors is available here.
Many of these programs charge a small fee and can be purchased online or over the counter.
Where do I go for help if I have questions with the e-File software?
Check the e-File software’s website for customer service options such as online assistance or an e-mail address for technical and/or tax law assistance.
What may I do if I have trouble accessing an e-File vendor’s website?
This problem may be due to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), your Internet Security software, and/or your employer's IT Department blocking expected information in the Web request from your browser. This information is necessary to protect you, the IRS and Virginia systems from improper use such as phishing attempts, browser hijacking and other security threats.
You may also check your browser settings, check with your ISP or check with your IT Department to research why key information is being blocked from your browser. Unfortunately, due to the many differences between internet browsers and individual computer configurations, we are unable to suggest internet settings or configurations for you.
For additional help with your Individual Income Tax return, you may Contact Customer Services by phone or secure e-mail.
Last Updated 11/24/2014 15:56