What is Telefile?

Lainie Petersen

Telefile is a system that allows users to file tax documents over the telephone. For a period of time beginning in 1992, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offered some tax filers the option of filing their taxes through Telefile. The IRS has since discontinued the service, as more taxpayers preferred electronic filing to the older system. Many states still offer a telephone-based system for filing certain tax documents, particularly for reporting sales tax, and these systems are sometimes known as Telefile.

The popularity of e-filing quickly surpassed that of telefiling, and the latter was discontinued in 2005.
The popularity of e-filing quickly surpassed that of telefiling, and the latter was discontinued in 2005.

The initial IRS-based Telefile service was originally tested in Ohio in the United States and eventually became available to anyone filing a 1040EZ Income Tax Return, a 941 Employer Quarterly Tax Return, or a 4868 Application for Automatic Extension of Time. Those who used the Teletax system could also request to receive their tax refunds via direct deposit by entering their bank account information into the system. Eventually, however, e-file became the preferred method of filing taxes and extensions, particularly because web-based services offered more flexibility and a greater range of tax forms could be completed online. The IRS discontinued the Telefile service after August 16th, 2005, and directed taxpayers to file their taxes electronically or by mail.

Many states continued to offer telephone-based filing of tax forms, though many have dropped the service in favor of e-filing. Still, phone-based filing remains an option for many businesses that need to file their state employer and sales tax reports. Some states, including Texas, Wisconsin, and Illinois, call their telephone sales tax reporting system Telefile. These Telefile systems allow business owners to report the sales tax collected directly to the state, and businesses may even be able to use the system to pay these taxes through a bank account withdrawal or by credit card. Businesses that prefer to not pay electronically can print out a voucher and submit their owed sales taxes directly to the state by mail.

The IRS has not completely dropped all telephone services and still provides a wealth of information to taxpayers who prefer phones over computers. Taxpayers can receive federal tax information over the telephone through Teletax, a separate service sponsored by the IRS. Users can choose from a menu of more than 100 different recorded messages on various tax topics. This information is also available online at the IRS's website. In addition, the IRS sponsors separate toll-free numbers for individuals needing help with their taxes as well as a tax refund status line.

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