Filing taxes used to require hours, even days, for those who took deductions or claimed certain credits. Those who filed the "EZ" forms - for the basic tax situations, without dependents - the task required a couple of hours.
You did one version in pencil and then a neater copy in pen that you'd mail to the proper tax authorities. Between finishing the task and mailing the returns, the nagging doubt of whether you had properly claimed everything and whether you had added everything correctly would start to crop up.
Then you had to wait a month or so for your return, not entirely sure of its status or whether you sent it to the correct IRS office. And even then you were still left wondering if you had left something out, miscalculated, misdeducted or just made a mistake.
The computer and Internet age have made this annual tax much easier and taken out some of the doubt. With Turbo Tax and TaxACT, for example, you can set up pay for a program that walks you through the tax-filing process and files your federal taxes. Some will file your state taxes or offer to do that for a fee.
For those who haven't filed their state forms yet, you can do it for free through Wisconsin e-file. "One of the things we've really been emphasizing for many years ? is encouraging people to e-file," said Richard Chandler, Department of Revenue secretary.
By filing through the Internet, you will not only be able to confirm that your return was received and to get your refund in a matter of days, but you will be saving Wisconsin money.
The state saves about $3 per return for processing costs, Chandler said. The number of state returns that have been e-filed has increased steadily over the years, from 1 percent in 1992, to 33 percent in 2001, to about 80 percent today, out of the 3 million state returns expected.
That 80 percent rate places Wisconsin in the top 10 states in the country for e-filing, according to Chandler.
The department's website includes lots of information on who qualifies, how to file and how check on your return, and it includes YouTube videos as well as mobile apps that allow you to check your return's status.
Chandler would love to see everyone e-file, but that will not happen any time soon. However, for those who have put off filing their state tax returns until the final four weeks of tax season, we encourage you to take advantage of the ease of e-filing as well as the quick returns. The fast turnaround takes most of the pain out of procrastination.