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File a Past Year Tax Return: You Can Do It Online (Almost!)

how to file a past tax return

You can prepare a past tax return online, you just have to mail it to the IRS

You may have heard that the IRS doesn’t allow taxpayers to e-file past year tax return information. And that’s 100% true — but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your past year taxes online !

How? Simple: you can enter your tax information into a site, and use it to file a past year tax return. The development of these sites has actually been fairly interesting. Tax preparation has gone from a professional service to something usually done with a desktop computer program, to something done by a few big websites — and now there are hundreds or even thousands of small sites that compete for online tax preparation business.

For years, tax preparation was done primarily one-on-one: an experienced accountant could help someone with their day-to-day filing needs, and could also handle more esoteric issues like real estate taxes, LLCs, and having to file past year tax returns. But as taxes became more complicated, chains of tax preparers grew more common. Like fast-food companies, they didn’t always have high quality, but they were very uniform.

The rise of tax filing software changed this significantly. Instead of paying an expensive tax preparation chain, or wondering if an individual tax preparer was up for the job, taxpayers could

buy software that would calculate the taxes they owed for them. The problem? Tax software had to be updated every year (which made it an absolute gold mine for the companies that made it), and it didn’t cover every case. Someone who had to file a past year tax return might have been out of luck.

Now, online tax preparation sites have revolutionized the business again, and for the better. Instead of forcing taxpayers to buy one big, monolithic tax preparation package, these sites let people pick a specialist to handle their returns. Someone who needs to file  a past year tax return can do it quickly online, with a company that specializes in exactly that kind of work. Someone who needs to file past year tax return  has plenty of low-cost, highly-specialized options.

Filing online simplifies things significantly for the average taxpayer, and helps tax prep companies specialize in what they do best. By cutting costs, reaching out to the right customers, and having an always-up-to-date site, these companies make it simple to file a past year tax return.

Photo via jurvetson  on Flickr.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 6th, 2013 at 7:57 pm and is filed under Late Taxes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response. or trackback from your own site.

Category: Taxes

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