The IRS will begin accepting 2015 federal income tax returns on Tuesday, January 19.
The agency expects to receive more than 150 million individual returns in 2016, with more than 80% filed electronically. But regardless of whether you plan on submitting online or on paper, the IRS says it will start processing all returns at the same time: "There is no advantage to people filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for e-file to begin," the IRS noted in its statement.
And don't think you've skipped the line if you've worked with a tax preparer already. Even if your return is ready, it can't be submitted until the 19th.
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You may not be ready to file this early. But especially if you expect to get a refund, you should file as soon as you have all the necessary year-end statements. Those include your W-2 form from your employer, who has until the end of January to mail out a copy of this record of what you earned and paid in taxes, and 1099s from banks, brokerages or mutual fund companies. For maximum security, opt to e-file your return and have your refund directly deposited into the bank. The IRS says you can expect your refund within 21 days.
Finishing up early will significantly reduce your chances of having a fraudulent tax refund filed ahead of your own—and seeing your refund go to an identity thief. That delays the processing of your legitimate return and the payment of any refund.
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For taxpayers who won't be ready early, keep in mind that you have until April 18 to file a federal return or request an extension this year, an extra three days over the traditional April 15 deadline. The extension comes thanks to Emancipation Day celebrations happening in Washington, D.C. on April 15. If you reside in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until Tuesday, April 19 due to the Patriots Day holiday.