Filing state taxes by mail

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NorCalHiker
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Filing state taxes by mail

Post by NorCalHiker »

This might seem inconsequential, but it's a nagging decision and I need to get the Bogleheads perspective. Every year, after efiling our fed taxes, I hem and haw about how to file our CA state tax. Easiest is obviously with efile directly through TurboTax, but I really hate having to give them the extra $25 because they spend so much money lobbying against making taxes easier to file. I'm tempted to just print and mail it, but then it seems like that's increased identify theft possibilities since someone at the tax bureau has to physically handle your return and feed it into the scanner. In the end, I've just broken down and efiled it for the last 5 years. Used to mail it before then. Fed return was always efiled. So, my question is, does anyone here actually mail in their return instead of efile? If so, do you think the "identify theft", as a result of someone physically handling your return, is overblown?

Why do I continue to purchase Turbotax and support Intuit you ask? A few years back, I tried switching to TaxAct and also HR Block sometime ago, they didn't handle a couple of tax situations correctly. I had to manually edit the form to get it right and that made me nervous. Additionally, HR block also engages in this sort of anti-consumer lobbying albeit not as egregiously as Intuit.

Also tried to file the taxes directly with the FTB (CalFile) and unfortunately, they have this stupid limitation that you can't efile directly through their site if you have capital gains taxes! :annoyed
Last edited by NorCalHiker on Mon May 03, 2021 11:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
dukeblue219
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by dukeblue219 »

What are you actually asking?

Many of us find the state e-file makes life more convenient, and TurboTax to be the most convenient tax software available. I got better things to do than print and mail a tax return, then wait who knows how long for processing. Only you know whether it's worth $25 to you.
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NorCalHiker
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by NorCalHiker »

dukeblue219 wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:27 am Many of us find the state e-file makes life more convenient, and TurboTax to be the most convenient tax software available. I got better things to do than print and mail a tax return, then wait who knows how long for processing. Only you know whether it's worth $25 to you.
Hah, edited my post to clearly state my implied question! Thanks. Sounds like you don't have the same concern as I do, which I get. Don't really care about the $25 amount; just have an issue with them and their lobbying efforts. I suppose the only way to truly eliminate this is to do taxes by hand or pay someone to do.
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samsoes
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by samsoes »

Don't give them an extra penny.

Does your state have an option to manually file online?

For Connecticut, we enter into their web form, line by line from the hard-copy that TT produces. (It of course, checks for math mistakes and looks-up tax amounts automatically from what's entered.)

All for free. Otherwise, mail it.
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RickBoglehead
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by RickBoglehead »

IMO, if you're worried about your state's tax department employees stealing your identity because they are physically handling your return instead of electronically handling your return, I think you're being paranoid.

I have never filed a state tax return in any manner except by mail. I'm not paying the electronic filing fee. I almost always owe or have a very small refund (intentional). This year I'm getting back $97, and they can take a few extra weeks to deposit that in my account.

I always check to see if my state has gotten smart and allowed me to key the return's numbers in online for free, but they still don't. So, they get mail.

As to paying for TurboTax, I pay $29.99 each year for Deluxe, buying on the Amazon sale date, and never fall for the "you need this version" upgrade BS.
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Hyperchicken
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Hyperchicken »

NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:17 am Also tried to file the taxes directly with the FTB (CalFile) and unfortunately, they have this stupid limitation that you can't efile directly through their site if you have capital gains taxes! :annoyed
Do you have any special tax circumstances? Because I've been using CalFile for a while, and that includes years when I had capital gains, and there was nothing different about these years. All the gains/losses are already rolled into your AGI on your federal return, and unless you need to make any further California-specific adjustments, California state return does not need to do anything special about them, and they get taxed as ordinary income.
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greg24
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by greg24 »

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
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NorCalHiker
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by NorCalHiker »

samsoes wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:34 am Don't give them an extra penny.

Does your state have an option to manually file online?
Samsoes, yes, they do have an efile option that's free, but as I mentioned, they exclude capital gains.
Hyperchicken wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:48 am
Do you have any special tax circumstances? Because I've been using CalFile for a while, and that includes years when I had capital gains, and there was nothing different about these years. All the gains/losses are already rolled into your AGI on your federal return, and unless you need to make any further California-specific adjustments, California state return does not need to do anything special about them, and they get taxed as ordinary income.
Hyperchicken, you have capital gains and you were able to use CalFile?! I never actually tried it but saw a bunch of people complain that they couldn't. In fact, one of the developers supposedly working on CalFIle posted on a forum confirming it. Sounds like I should have just tried it. Here's what Calfile's website says under the "Does not qualify" section:
Claiming Capital gains or losses
https://www.ftb.ca.gov/file/ways-to-fil ... tions.html
greg24 wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:52 am Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
To be clear, which option is cutting off my nose? :) Sounds like you are in the "efile it and don't sweat it" camp.
RickBoglehead wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:41 am IMO, if you're worried about your state's tax department employees stealing your identity because they are physically handling your return instead of electronically handling your return, I think you're being paranoid.
Thanks RickBoglehead. I'm worried that I was being paranoid as well. I honestly don't care about the extra time it takes to process the return since it's usually a negligible amount.
Thesaints
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Thesaints »

I file everything manually. Not really trying to save a few bucks, but because in my opinion it gives me a deeper understanding of how the tax load is formed (and ideas on how to reduce it).
Keep in mind that if you are due a refund CA takes 1 month if filed electronically and 3 if filed by mail. Interest rate on refunds are 0.00% currently.
Hyperchicken
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Hyperchicken »

NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 12:34 pm Hyperchicken, you have capital gains and you were able to use CalFile?! I never actually tried it but saw a bunch of people complain that they couldn't. In fact, one of the developers supposedly working on CalFIle posted on a forum confirming it. Sounds like I should have just tried it. Here's what Calfile's website says under the "Does not qualify" section:
Claiming Capital gains or losses
https://www.ftb.ca.gov/file/ways-to-fil ... tions.html
Yes, I see where you're coming from, and indeed the CalFile page says that (to my confusion).

The thing is, CalFile still produces all the forms correctly. If I were to paper file, I'd be filing the exact same numbers. And this is because cap gains are already included into my federal AGI, and then CA form 540 picks it up and taxes as ordinary income, which is how it should work.

I suspect (but have nothing to prove this) that the intent was to restrict CalFile use when one needs to make California-specific adjustments to capital gains. For example, when California cost basis is different than federal, etc. And then somehow this message got generalized to "all cap gains/losses are unsupported".
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CAsage
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by CAsage »

I use Taxcut to do my taxes, and dither over the extra $19.95 they charge to e-file California returns (or any state). I have never had any issue with security as I trust the USPS and FTB. However, I have all my credit frozen and monitor my financial accounts like a hawk! It annoys me that FTB seems to restrict efiling direct as it's got to cost them more to hand process my stack of paper + federal return. The cost to mail also annoys me! So in the years I owe money due to good planning, I mail the darn thing. In the years my bad planning gets me a refund, I efile and forget it. I am still surprised they cannot figure out how to accept an e-file directly from Turbotax or Taxcut, as we've already done all the hard work. I will never qualify due to their (many) limitations, like no Roth Conversions or Capital gains. The state tax boards should ban that ludicrous fee.
Last edited by CAsage on Mon May 03, 2021 1:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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hamhocs
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by hamhocs »

If I owe money to the state, I will mail it in. The canceled check let's me know that they got it. This year I had a refund from the state. I efiled but haven't gotten my refund in 5 weeks. I do know that they got it because I can log in to my state account. But I will try to owe money again next year and mail it in. Not worried about anyone stealing my identity.
FactualFran
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by FactualFran »

I mail my state income tax return and e-file the federal return, using Free File Fillable Forms for the federal return. I am not concerned with "identify theft" due to someone being able to view the mailed forms.
tibbitts
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by tibbitts »

I file in a different state, not CA. I did returns manually for decades, but then switched to software (recently HRB) and didn't pay the state fee for a few years. Shortly after it taking three months to have the state acknowledge my printed paper return, I decided the filing fee with HRB was worth it to me.

As for e-filing using a different, free e-file state platform vs. the one you prepare your federal return with, there is absolutely zero chance of me manually transcribing/transferring any numbers from one platform to another. The only question would be how many mistakes I'd make in the process.
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NorCalHiker
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by NorCalHiker »

Hyperchicken wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 12:56 pm
NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 12:34 pm Hyperchicken, you have capital gains and you were able to use CalFile?! I never actually tried it but saw a bunch of people complain that they couldn't. In fact, one of the developers supposedly working on CalFIle posted on a forum confirming it. Sounds like I should have just tried it. Here's what Calfile's website says under the "Does not qualify" section:
Claiming Capital gains or losses
https://www.ftb.ca.gov/file/ways-to-fil ... tions.html
Yes, I see where you're coming from, and indeed the CalFile page says that (to my confusion).

The thing is, CalFile still produces all the forms correctly. If I were to paper file, I'd be filing the exact same numbers. And this is because cap gains are already included into my federal AGI, and then CA form 540 picks it up and taxes as ordinary income, which is how it should work.

I suspect (but have nothing to prove this) that the intent was to restrict CalFile use when one needs to make California-specific adjustments to capital gains. For example, when California cost basis is different than federal, etc. And then somehow this message got generalized to "all cap gains/losses are unsupported".
Hyperchicken, I gotta say, thank you. I went ahead and went through the motions on the CalFile website and you are correct, the numbers exactly match what shows up on my Turbotax state return. I'm not itemizing either Fed or CA and it's quite easy; was done in about 15-20 min. I'm going to go through and see about verifying the numbers. Haven't submitted yet, but I'm hoping calfile allows me to print out the forms and examine them before filing. The FTB really needs to clarify the "no cap gains section".
campy2010
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by campy2010 »

The state I live in had a nice, free website where you could enter info and have your refund in a day or two. Of course the state website was discontinued in favor of commercially-available "freefile" programs/HR Block/Turbo Tax. My takeaway from the state's discontinuation of their electronic program is that the state prefers paper. And since I am petty and hate paying money to file taxes, I just mail the forms from HR Block.
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by AlohaJoe »

NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:17 am I'm tempted to just print and mail it, but then it seems like that's increased identify theft possibilities since someone at the tax bureau has to physically handle your return and feed it into the scanner.
Have you ever seen even a single news report of this happening?

I think you are imagining risks that don't exist.
RetiredAL
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by RetiredAL »

AlohaJoe wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 4:16 pm
NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:17 am I'm tempted to just print and mail it, but then it seems like that's increased identify theft possibilities since someone at the tax bureau has to physically handle your return and feed it into the scanner.
Have you ever seen even a single news report of this happening?

I think you are imagining risks that don't exist.
+1
hachiko
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by hachiko »

I have had to paper file many returns in the past, and still do. I have never even thought about identity theft by a DOR or IRS employee. But maybe your identity is a lot more interesting than mine.

I am concerned about individuals entering in information incorrectly or not "noticing" some of the more uncommon attachments. This has happened to me (though my sample size is much larger than just my personal returns). I efile when and where I can, but sometimes I cannot and just have to take the risk.

But identity theft? It's more likely to be lost or stolen in transit and identity theft resulting from that.

Also, this type of identity theft that you're proposing (as opposed to stealing a credit card number or getting a fake ID) is a pretty difficult crime to actually pull off. Not only just to get away with it, but also to actually pull it off in the first place.
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grogu
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by grogu »

NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:17 am If so, do you think the "identify theft", as a result of someone physically handling your return, is overblown?
If I I submit my return electronically through Turbotax, I don't trust that they don't keep a copy somewhere in their cloud/backup that could be hacked, or just used for nefarious purposes by someone from Turbotax (despite whatever assurances to the contrary they may give). Honestly, this risk doesn't concern me nearly as much as paying them $20-30 for the privilege of filing my taxes. So hard copy mail for me.
nalor511
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by nalor511 »

I efile fed, and paper file state in CA, never had a problem
Ocean77
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Ocean77 »

grogu wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:35 pm
NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:17 am If so, do you think the "identify theft", as a result of someone physically handling your return, is overblown?
If I I submit my return electronically through Turbotax, I don't trust that they don't keep a copy somewhere in their cloud/backup that could be hacked, or just used for nefarious purposes by someone from Turbotax (despite whatever assurances to the contrary they may give). Honestly, this risk doesn't concern me nearly as much as paying them $20-30 for the privilege of filing my taxes. So hard copy mail for me.
You know they scan in your paper forms once they arrive, and then it ends up in the same cloud storage or wherever they keep all other tax returns. If somebody were to hack into the IRS systems, all of them may be exposed. As for the delivery method, you may be trusting the USPS folks more than Turbotax folks not to steal your mail. But that doesn't mean it will be more secure.
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Metsfan91
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Metsfan91 »

NorCalHiker wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:17 am This might seem inconsequential, but it's a nagging decision and I need to get the Bogleheads perspective. Every year, after efiling our fed taxes, I hem and haw about how to file our CA state tax. Easiest is obviously with efile directly through TurboTax, but I really hate having to give them the extra $25 because they spend so much money lobbying against making taxes easier to file. I'm tempted to just print and mail it, but then it seems like that's increased identify theft possibilities since someone at the tax bureau has to physically handle your return and feed it into the scanner. In the end, I've just broken down and efiled it for the last 5 years. Used to mail it before then. Fed return was always efiled. So, my question is, does anyone here actually mail in their return instead of efile? If so, do you think the "identify theft", as a result of someone physically handling your return, is overblown?

Why do I continue to purchase Turbotax and support Intuit you ask? A few years back, I tried switching to TaxAct and also HR Block sometime ago, they didn't handle a couple of tax situations correctly. I had to manually edit the form to get it right and that made me nervous. Additionally, HR block also engages in this sort of anti-consumer lobbying albeit not as egregiously as Intuit.

Also tried to file the taxes directly with the FTB (CalFile) and unfortunately, they have this stupid limitation that you can't efile directly through their site if you have capital gains taxes! :annoyed
I have always paper filed, USPS mailed, both federal and state return. Never lost sleep over it. I've got full faith and confidence on USPS.
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egrets
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by egrets »

Metsfan91 wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 2:00 am
I have always paper filed, USPS mailed, both federal and state return. Never lost sleep over it. I've got full faith and confidence on USPS.
+1 Been doing this for over fifty years with no problem.
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grogu
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by grogu »

Ocean77 wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 1:07 am
grogu wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:35 pm
If I I submit my return electronically through Turbotax, I don't trust that they don't keep a copy somewhere in their cloud/backup that could be hacked, or just used for nefarious purposes by someone from Turbotax (despite whatever assurances to the contrary they may give). Honestly, this risk doesn't concern me nearly as much as paying them $20-30 for the privilege of filing my taxes. So hard copy mail for me.
You know they scan in your paper forms once they arrive, and then it ends up in the same cloud storage or wherever they keep all other tax returns. If somebody were to hack into the IRS systems, all of them may be exposed. As for the delivery method, you may be trusting the USPS folks more than Turbotax folks not to steal your mail. But that doesn't mean it will be more secure.
Yes, I realize the IRS stores an electronic copy. To clarify, my concern (which is not a big one), is Turbotax storing a copy on their server too (even as a tmp file). But again, that's a distant second to my primary issue, which is Turbotax's screw-you fee.
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Monster99
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Monster99 »

campy2010 wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 4:09 pm The state I live in had a nice, free website where you could enter info and have your refund in a day or two. Of course the state website was discontinued in favor of commercially-available "freefile" programs/HR Block/Turbo Tax. My takeaway from the state's discontinuation of their electronic program is that the state prefers paper. And since I am petty and hate paying money to file taxes, I just mail the forms from HR Block.
The same here - the state had an easy and straightforward way to submit state taxes, then they limited the use to under certain income limits then went with the "freefile" method - most likely from input from the tax program manufacturers... 🥴 I now make sure to owe money for taxes and then efile fed for free and mail out the state.
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Katietsu »

grogu wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 8:08 am
Ocean77 wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 1:07 am
grogu wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 11:35 pm
If I I submit my return electronically through Turbotax, I don't trust that they don't keep a copy somewhere in their cloud/backup that could be hacked, or just used for nefarious purposes by someone from Turbotax (despite whatever assurances to the contrary they may give). Honestly, this risk doesn't concern me nearly as much as paying them $20-30 for the privilege of filing my taxes. So hard copy mail for me.
You know they scan in your paper forms once they arrive, and then it ends up in the same cloud storage or wherever they keep all other tax returns. If somebody were to hack into the IRS systems, all of them may be exposed. As for the delivery method, you may be trusting the USPS folks more than Turbotax folks not to steal your mail. But that doesn't mean it will be more secure.
Yes, I realize the IRS stores an electronic copy. To clarify, my concern (which is not a big one), is Turbotax storing a copy on their server too (even as a tmp file). But again, that's a distant second to my primary issue, which is Turbotax's screw-you fee.
Turbotax does store an electronic copy because they are required to by the IRS. I do not know if any accurate estimate of risk of stolen information is possible between the various delivery methods. Personally, I think they are all so small to render differences irrelevant. I mean, by putting the IRS or State Tax Dept on the envelope, you just as well could right “SSN number inside”.

I have mailed my state return several times because of the principle of it, like you. Quite frankly this has caused me issues more years than not. For instance, one year my employer failed to print state withholding on the state copy of the W-2. This only became on issue because it was sent by paper.
Big Dog
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by Big Dog »

CA resident who has been using T-Tax for years, but I too refuse to pay the extra fee to file electronically. $1.40 stamp and the USPS works just fine. It gets there when it gets there, and the state will process eventually. Not concerned about id theft. (I figure if the state wanted to incent e-filing, they could do what NYS did and that is ban the extra fee. As CA chooses not to, IMO they must prefer the manual filings by snail mail.)
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by talzara »

hachiko wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 10:56 pm I am concerned about individuals entering in information incorrectly or not "noticing" some of the more uncommon attachments. This has happened to me (though my sample size is much larger than just my personal returns). I efile when and where I can, but sometimes I cannot and just have to take the risk.
The OP lives in California, so there is very little risk of incorrect information entry.

Incorrect data entry occurs when people type in the returns by hand. The IRS does this for the federal tax return, and some states are still doing this for their returns.

In states that use OCR to read the return, errors are much less likely. Some states use 2D barcodes on software-prepared paper returns, which is even more reliable.
talzara
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by talzara »

Ocean77 wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 1:07 am You know they scan in your paper forms once they arrive, and then it ends up in the same cloud storage or wherever they keep all other tax returns. If somebody were to hack into the IRS systems, all of them may be exposed. As for the delivery method, you may be trusting the USPS folks more than Turbotax folks not to steal your mail. But that doesn't mean it will be more secure.
The OP is asking about the California tax return, not the federal tax return.

The IRS does not scan in the individual tax return. IRS employees type in the return by hand into an IBM mainframe. Actually, they only type in form 1040 and parts of other forms. The rest of the return only exists on paper, and nobody from the IRS will ever look at it unless you are audited.
talzara
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by talzara »

grogu wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 8:08 am Yes, I realize the IRS stores an electronic copy. To clarify, my concern (which is not a big one), is Turbotax storing a copy on their server too (even as a tmp file). But again, that's a distant second to my primary issue, which is Turbotax's screw-you fee.
The IRS actually requires e-file transmitters to store a copy of your return.

This is why TurboTax can e-file before the IRS opens up for e-filing. The data gets sent to Intuit, which holds on it until the IRS begins accepting e-filed returns.

I don't know how long the retention period is.
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dual
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by dual »

I don’t think identity theft of a mail in return is much more risky than theft from electronic data there are uploaded.

It’s hard to get details but it looks like Calfile site requires you to manually key in data. I think this is much more error-prone than having a clerk scan the “2D barcode“ page of the paper return to get the data.

Arranging to have some money owed will get you quick service at the FTB and processing by their A-Team.
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Re: Filing state taxes by mail

Post by FactualFran »

dual wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 2:27 pm It’s hard to get details but it looks like Calfile site requires you to manually key in data. I think this is much more error-prone than having a clerk scan the “2D barcode“ page of the paper return to get the data.
Someday there may no longer be any manually keyed in data with income tax returns. Key in errors by the person filling in the form remain. 2D barcodes eliminates errors that could happen when the income tax processing center keys in the data from paper forms.
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