Why you should start your taxes before the new year

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Why you should start your taxes before the new year
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The 2017 tax filing season will begin on Monday, January 23, the IRS recently announced.

The agency will begin accepting federal tax returns filed both electronically and on paper that day.

Why you should start preparing now

If you want to get started early — with a tax professional or tax prep software — you can fill out yor return before January 23, but it won’t be submitted for you until then.

It can be a little daunting to prepare to file your taxes, so getting organized beforehand and filing early has a lot of benefits. You can avoid scrambling to tackle a mound of paperwork at the last minute in April by starting now to get your paperwork in order. 

Plus, starting early will give you a much better idea of what you might receive or owe on your taxes next year. And the earlier you file, the sooner you’ll get your check. (Important note: Clark would prefer you reduce your withholding so you *don’t* get a refund.) But if you do get a refund, getting it sooner rather than later could help you pay off those holiday credit card bills.

The IRS says for anyone expecting a refund, you likely won’t have to wait too long to get it. The deadline to file federal returns — and requests for extensions — is April 18, 2017.

Tax software makes filing super easy

Once you overcome the dread of getting started, there are some tricks to getting your taxes done quickly and easily.

Tax software companies like TurboTax and H&R Block make the process pretty easy. There’s also a free filing program available, and you can see if you’re eligible here.

Read more: 7 tax loopholes that make homeowners happy

Ways to bulk up your tax refund

Getting started on your taxes early also gives you a chance to bulk up your refund. Consumer Reports pulled together a list of end-of-the-year moves to make if you want to increase your refund:

  • Increase itemized deductions, including charitable contributions, business expenditures, and qualified medical expenses. See more details on how to do this from Consumer Reports here.

  • Adjust your withholding for the last week of December. Check the IRS’s withholding calculator for help.
     
  • Pay 2017 property taxes due in January before year-end unless you expect to be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax. In that case, you won’t benefit from that accelerated payment. If you expect to be a victim of the AMT, speak to a tax professional before making any moves.

See more details on the IRS website here.

Avoiding tax-related fraud & identity theft

Many people are targets around tax time with scam artists filing bogus claims under unsuspecting taxpayer names and Social Security numbers.  The IRS is aware of that and is taking steps to help protect you.

Here are some resources on how to avoid tax-related fraud and identity theft:

Also, know that the IRS will never call you — the agency will only contact you by snail mail. So if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, it’s likely a scam! Here’s more on how to spot the IRS phone scam.

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Alex Thomas Sadler About the author:
Alex Thomas Sadler is the Managing Editor of Clark.com and Clark Howard Digital Products. Alex is also the host of Common Cents, a new Clark.com series that makes money simple, so you can better understand and take control of your own financial life. Alex graduated from the University of Georgia with bachelor's degrees in ...Read more
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