Once the decorations are put away and the confetti is swept up, the start of a brand-new year opens up before us. However, among all the goodwill about new beginnings and fresh starts, there is an age-old task waiting for you that is not very pleasant: tax filing.
Somehow, the old year is not over just yet. You have to file the previous year’s returns by April 15, and you might notice that the paperwork starts to trickle in all during the month of January. Do not be tempted to toss it in a drawer or push it aside. Experts have warned that tax filing as soon as you possibly can is a good way to protect your identity and your refund.
Tax return fraud has been a major issue for many years, and it can happen to any taxpayer. The high rate of personally identifiable information that is available for thieves to use, thanks to data breaches or purchasing entire identity records on the Dark Web, contributes to the problem. Essentially, a thief files a fake tax return using your name, Social Security number and other details about you. They have the bogus refund issued to a prepaid debit card, and their work is done. When you attempt to file your own legitimate return, it gets rejected for being a duplicate.
It gets worse. Not only are you out your refund, your information is now associated with this tax return fraud. Even worse, you still have to file your correct return in a timely fashion or face penalties.
Fortunately, you are not powerless to stop a faceless criminal here. The best way to prevent tax return fraud is to simply beat the criminal to it. If you can get your return filed before they do it, yours will be the legitimate return and theirs will be the rejected duplicate.
Of course, you cannot get to tax filing until all of your documentation arrives, and legally that can take until January 31. That is why now is the time to start gathering any paperwork you will need, deciding on how you will prepare (at home with forms or software, or with a professional preparer) and getting ready to check off this important box.
Tax filing early has the added benefit of getting any refunds you are owed that much sooner. Do not put off tax filing as just another hassle or chore. Protect yourself this year by getting it out of the way.
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