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By Kerri Anne Renzulli
Updated: January 13, 2016 12:49 PM ET
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (1)

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.

Read Next: When Will I Get My W-2?

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.

Read Next: What Forms Do I Need to File My Return?

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.

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The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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