Some people wait until the last minute to file their tax returns and other want to get it over with as soon as possible, especially those getting a refund. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not process any tax returns earlier than the date that it decides to open. Last year, the IRS started accepting electronic returns on Jan. 23, 2017.

Filing Earlier Than the IRS Open Date

You may file a paper return earlier than the date the IRS starts accepting electronic returns, but you will not get your refund faster. Your tax return will sit in the queue until the IRS starts processing returns. Additionally, you may not have the correct information needed to file a return that early. Last year, employers had until Feb. 1 to send you your W-2 or 1099. Additionally, if you were to receive a 1099-B, 1099-Misc or 1099-S, the issuing company had until Feb. 15 to get those mailed to you.

The W-2s and 1099s have information on them that is not contained on your last paycheck, so you do have to wait for them. Thus, even though the IRS starts accepting returns earlier in January, you may not even be able to file until the middle of February.

Receiving a Refund

In most cases, the IRS will process your tax return in less than 21 days. However, if you are claiming the Additional Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit, the IRS will not issue a refund prior to a certain date. Last year, it was Feb. 15. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 does not allow the IRS to process those returns earlier as the IRS must examine your return to prevent fraud. Those who have claimed those credits fraudulently were part of the reason for a tax increase.

Benefits of Filing Taxes Early

Even if you owe money to the IRS, filing early provides additional benefits. If the IRS owes you money, you get your return faster. And, if you use e-file as soon as you have all of the documentation you need, you’ll get your refund even quicker. According to this TurboTax article, it could take the IRS several weeks longer to process a paper return.

Another benefit to filing as early as possible is that it thwarts identity thieves. A thief is able to file a tax return in your name as long as he or she has your social security number. With that information, the thief is able to steal your refund. Usually, thieves try this early in the season, hoping that they beat you to it to claim your refund.

If you owe taxes to the IRS, filing early still benefits you. Prepare your return as early as possible so you have time to save up the payment if needed. If you wait until the last minute the amount due could be an unpleasant surprise. And, if you don’t have the money by the due date, the IRS will penalize you.

Early filing also helps you avoid the rigamarole of filing for an extension. If you wait too long, you may have to ask for extra time to find receipts and documentation for deductions. If you file an extension, you still have to pay your taxes by the due date, so that doesn’t help you at all. In fact, it could be harmful. If you file the amount due without completing your taxes, you could overpay and it will take some time to get that extra money back. Starting your tax return early gives you the time to find receipts or documentation for deductions you might have thought you had.

Finally, one of the biggest benefits of filing early is the availability of the information you will need if you are purchasing a house or if you are applying for financial aid for college. If you wait, you will have to put off submitting that documentation and may miss application or closing deadlines. You may also miss out on a better interest rate if you don’t have all of your documentation or you may even lose your dream house to another person who is able to close faster.

Contact France Law Firm

If you have any tax questions or concerns, contact France Law Firm for a consultation with our tax attorney.