How Early Should I File My Taxes?

Tax season is complicated.

While we all know the tax deadline is April 15th—or at least we hope you know the tax deadline is April 15th—everything before that is a little fuzzy.

Tax documents start arriving in the mail in mid-January, but for many taxpayers, that doesn’t mean it’s time to file. That just means it’s time to remember taxes, sigh, and then put the tax form on the counter or in the filing cabinet.

In fact, most people don’t start thinking about their taxes until they start seeing those television commercials. And even then, most people just avoid thinking about the inevitable reality of Tax Day until March or April, anyway. Sound like you?

If you aren’t naturally excited about tax season like we are (Nerd alert!), you may not even know when you can start filing—but there are definitely some advantages to doing so.

The answer is pretty straightforward: You can file as soon as you want! This year, Tax Season officially began on January 28.

However, the reality is that there are some practical barriers that get in between those A-type early birds and their goal of filing on January 1st. It’s in your best interest to keep them in mind just to ensure hat you’re submitting the best return possible—one that maximizes your return while ensuring you remain above board and audit-free.

So, here’s everything you should keep in mind when filing your taxes early.

Wait For Your Paperwork

The first and biggest barrier to filing an audit-proof tax return is getting all your paperwork in order. You may be waiting on a W-2 from your employer or other tax forms for health insurance, investments, student loans, or something else entirely.

One way to expedite this process is to check any online accounts you have and go paperless if possible. Just like with your tax refund check, you can save a few days of processing and mailing time just by getting your forms emailed to you or searching for them on your online accounts.

This method isn’t for everyone—since some folks really like to hold their paperwork in their hands—but it can be the best way of shortening the time spent waiting on your tax forms. Otherwise, you may be waiting as late as the end of January!

Fill Out the Basics First

However, just because you have some necessary forms to wait on doesn’t mean you can’t get started on your taxes early. There is plenty of basic information you can fill out to make your tax filing process just a bit easier when the time comes.

Yeah, it’s not like you’ll be saving yourself, your tax preparer, or your accountant the bulk of the time. But if you plan on filing yourself either through tax software or with a pen and paper, getting the basics out can be a great way of clearing out some of the stress and overwhelm that comes with filing your taxes and making your job that much easier.

Beat the Rush

It may sound obvious that filing your return sooner gets you your tax return sooner, too, but that isn’t the whole story. When you wait until April 15th to file your return, you’re forcing the IRS to process your return during their busiest time of the year.

The early bird gets the worm! And when it comes to filing your taxes, the “worm” refers to that juicy return you’re waiting on. So if you’re expecting to get some money back from Uncle Sam, getting your return in at the start of Tax Season can actually reduce your wait time.

Mind the Shutdown

Remember that? Of course you do. The historic 35-day shutdown of the U.S. Federal Government certainly impacted the IRS, and while the shutdown was over by the first day of Tax Season, there are still some wrinkles the IRS is working to smooth out.

With that said, the IRS expects for most elements of Tax Season to go smoothly over the next few months, as the shutdown mostly impacted audits, appointments, and some collections. So just be aware that things could take longer than you might expect to get processed, even though some grand delays have been avoided for the time being.

Just remember that the government shutdown won’t have any impact on the date your taxes are due. So if you’re thinking you can get away with filing later than April 15th, you may want to think again.

File Early with Fewer Headaches

If you can file your tax return early, you should. Not only do you get a lead on the rest of your fellow taxpayers who tend to file on or near Tax Day, but also you give yourself a sense of relief that only comes when you know you’re saving your future self—or your tax preparer—some serious stress and headaches down the line. In our opinion, there’s no greater feeling.

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