tax tips — December 19, 2016

5 Ways to Gear Up for Your Taxes

by Susannah McQuitty

A woman files taxes on her tablet.]

Well, there it is, folks: The IRS has announced that tax season will officially begin on January 23, 2017. That’s, what, about a month away? It’s that time of the year again, but don’t let it freak you out. The more you prep on the front end and file as soon as you’re ready (which could even be before the January 23 start date – see more below!), the easier the process will be.

Get your records and resources together

Time to assemble your tax season utility belt (we’ve all seen enough superhero movies by now to know how, right?). First, get all your relevant records in one place, whether paper or electronic, whatever records apply to your tax situation. What’s relevant for a small business owner will be different from what’s relevant for a recent college graduate. If you’re not sure where you fall, check out our Tax Guide and use the sections that apply to you.

Speaking of the Tax Guide, that brings us back to your utility belt: The tools you can tap ahead of time for advice and calculations. We’ve got some great calculators to help you figure out your best withholding choices and much more. Oh, and of course, the blog is where it’s at for timely info (shameless self-plug, I know – I’ll own it).

A tablet, phone, and planner  on a coffee shop table.]

Watch your mailboxes – both physical and electronic

Tax season means the W-2s are going to start coming in, and you want to make sure you put yours in a safe place as soon as you receive it. The last thing you want to do is accidentally trash your W-2 and 1099s (for those who are self-employed) with the junk mail.

If you get your W-2 electronically, you don’t have to worry much about accidentally losing it. For those of us who have more emails in our inboxes than there are days in the year, though, it may be a bit more of a challenge to keep track of an electronic W-2.

Why all the attention? One of the most common forms of tax fraud happens when crooks use your Social Security information to file a return and redirect the refund to their account (which is why the IRS took down certain services and recently beefed up site security – check out our post on why e-filing PINs aren’t being used this year). Watching your mailboxes for those important forms is one way to stay vigilant during the filing process.

A man and a woman file their taxes on a computer.]

E-file for peace of mind

The easiest, safest, and fastest way to file your taxes is to send the return electronically – and you can even start before January 23, if you file with We’ll be opening up our filing site sometime around the first week of January. Once you get your W-2 and other tax information together, you can complete your taxes, get ahead of the January 23 traffic, and receive your refund in as little as 10 days once the IRS starts processing. You’re pretty certain to have it within 21 days, if you choose to have your refund sent directly to your bank account. More on that in a minute.

One important note on e-filing if you plan to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC): Starting this year, the IRS is required to hold your entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC — until at least February 15. Even if there aren’t any processing issues with the tax return and you choose direct deposit, it could still be February 27 or later before you receive your refund. This applies to all taxpayers receiving these credits, no matter how you file or who you file with. All of this is to help the IRS keep refunds away from identity thieves and to prevent tax refund fraud – frustrating to have to wait, but hard to argue against the cause.

p> A woman using a tablet while a man types on a computer.]

Direct deposit means fast cash

There’s plenty to say about the safety, ease, and speed of e-filing, but one of the best things about the process is that you can also choose to have your refund delivered straight to your bank account. No waiting on a check, no delayed travel plans, no special trip to the bank – just have your money dropped right where you need it, as soon as it’s cleared to go. All you have to do is choose direct deposit and provide your banking info.

Get done early

Get organized to file taxes infographicSince you’re doing some prep on the front end, you’ll have plenty of time to give your return the TLC it needs while also finishing up as early as possible. While you don’t want to rush through your tax return, you also want to file as soon as you can to protect yourself from identity theft. If you submit your return early, no one else can swoop in and file with your identity – even if they already had your personal information. However, if a crook files before you do, using your Social Security Number, it will take months for you to prove your identity and receive your refund. No joke. It doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, it’s no fun.

Overall, it just makes sense to prepare well, file early, e-file for the speed of the process, and file with Your info will be safe, and you can file in one sitting – so let’s do this!

P.S. Check out our infographic, Tips to Get Organized Before You FIle.


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