Does Filing My Tax Return Early Make Sense?

Posted on Thursday, January 01, 2015

Although individual income tax returns don't have to be filed until April 15, taxpayers who file early get their refunds a lot sooner. The IRS begins accepting returns in January but does not start processing returns until February. Determining whether to file early depends on various personal and financial considerations. Filing early to somehow fly under the IRS's audit radar, however, has been ruled out long ago by experts as a viable strategy.

Required documents

Filing a return early may not make sense for many taxpayers because they do not yet have enough information to accurately fill out their return. If you have not received information returns, like Forms 1099, or other information you need to complete your return and/or accompanying forms, or if you are missing documents or other information you need to attach to your return, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to accurately complete your tax return. For example, employers do not have to provide wage statements to their employees until January 31 (although an employer can provide Form W-2 sooner if an employee terminates employment). The IRS requires this statement to be attached to your return (either in paper form or electronically when filing online).

Information returns do not have to be furnished until January 31. These include, among others, the 1099 forms for dividends, interest income, royalty income (Form 1099-MISC), stock sales (Form 1099-B), real estate sales (Form 1099-S), state tax refunds (Form 1099-G), and mortgage interest paid (Form 1098), and distributions from pension plans (Form 1099-R). Waiting until you receive all the information and forms necessary to complete your return accurately also lessens your chances of making mistakes, which can call attention to your return by the IRS. The IRS will not process your return until it is accurate.

Last year's return

You'll also want to take a look at your 2013 tax return. Did your circumstances change in 2014? Changes such as starting a new job, retiring, getting married, having a child, and so on, have important tax consequences. Congress extended, enhanced and created new tax incentives in 2014 that could generate a larger refund. Another important consideration is the current economic downturn, which has generated significant losses in many investment portfolios, IRAs, 401(k)s, and similar arrangements.

Refunds

If you have all the information you need to completely and accurately fill out your tax return, and are owed a refund, filing early is attractive. The sooner you file, the sooner you'll see your refund check from the IRS. If you file your return electronically and choose to have your refund direct deposited into your bank account, the IRS typically will issue your refund in as few as 10 days.

If you owe money, however, you may want to wait until April 15 to file or file early online and date your tax payment to be released on April 15. If you have the funds to pay what you owe and you pay early, you could lose out on keeping the money invested and earning interest on it until April 15.

The IRS expects to receive more than 150 million individual income tax returns during the 2015 filing season. Remember that the IRS does not start processing returns until February. Also, no matter how early you file your return before April 15, the three year statute of limitations during which the IRS can question your return and assess more tax doesn't start to run until April 15.

Posted in Tax Topics For Individuals

Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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