The tax-filing deadline this year is April 15, so you may not be thinking about submitting a return just yet. But the IRS just announced that it will begin accepting 2019 returns on January 27, 2020. And if you're able to complete your taxes by the end of the month, it pays to do so.
The benefit of filing early
If you're owed a refund from the IRS, the sooner you submit your tax return, the sooner you can expect that cash. The IRS typically issues refunds for electronically submitted returns within three weeks. For paper returns, it's about twice as long a turnaround. But if you think you're due a large chunk of cash, filing your return in January could put that money in your hands by mid-February.
It especially pays to try to snag your refund early if you have large bills coming up that you can't pay without it, or you're sitting on a leftover pile of holiday debt that you want to pay off quickly to avoid accruing loads of interest. And if you're not sure whether you're owed money or will need to write out a check to the IRS, the sooner you figure it out, the sooner you can map out a plan to come up with any needed cash by this year's deadline. Keep in mind that you can submit your tax return in January and not pay your tax bill until April 15.
Another thing: Filing your taxes early could help you avoid becoming a tax fraud victim. If a criminal gains access to your personal data, files a return on your behalf, and nabs your refund, you'll be out of luck when you try to file your legitimate return -- yours will get rejected if the IRS already has a version on file with your Social Security number. But if you file first and then someone attempts the aforementioned crime, yours will be the accepted return, and that crook will most likely back down and choose someone else to victimize.
When will you get your tax documents?
You should get your W-2, which summarizes your taxable wages, and 1099 forms, which summarize additional nonsalaried income, by the end of January, whether electronically or by mail. If you're planning to itemize on your tax return, you'll also need your mortgage interest statement for 2019, as well as copies of charitable donations, medical expenses, and any other deductions you're looking to claim.
Another thing you should know is that if you're claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit, your refund may be delayed until late February. Due to high levels of fraud associated with these credits in particular, the IRS must delay refunds relating to them. In fact, if you claim one of these credits, your whole refund will be delayed -- not just the portion relating to the credits themselves.
Even if you're not anticipating a refund this year, the sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you remove one stressful task from your plate. And that's reason enough to get moving.