How early can I file my income tax return?

Written by james rada, jr.
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How early can I file my income tax return?
Some people can manage to file their tax returns in January, though many more wait until April. (tax forms image by Chad McDermott from Fotolia.com)

Some people like to file their taxes early because they want to get their income tax refund checks back as soon as possible. While the deadline for filing your federal income tax return is April 15 for taxes due from the previous year, you actually can file your income taxes months earlier depending on your work situation and how organised you are.

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Why File Early?

The most popular reason for filing your tax returns as early as possible is to get the refund of your overpaid taxes back as soon as possible. Not only do you get your check earlier because you filed early, more than likely the IRS won't be as busy earlier in the tax season so they can process your return quicker. Other people file early to get the dreaded annual chore out of the way or to avoid crowds at the post office with people mailing their tax returns on April 15.

What You're Paying For

You pay your taxes on the calendar year so the earliest you could ever pay your taxes for the previous year would be Jan. 1 on the year following the tax year. This is not something that happens, though, because businesses, particularly banks and investment companies, need to tally up interest and dividends for your accounts for December and will not have the information ready on Jan. 1.

Waiting For Forms

You need to gather the forms that accompany your tax return when you file it. The most common of these forms is the W-2 statement that shows your employment earnings for the tax year. Employers are not required to hand these out or mail them to employees until the end of January. Even then, many companies wind up mailing them later than that for various reasons. You also may have to wait to receive 1099 forms that show interest, dividends and capital gains on your investments.

When the IRS is Ready

You may be the most organised person around, be self-employed, have no investments and have your tax return ready to be filed on Jan. 1. That doesn't mean the IRS will be ready to accept it on that day. Electronic filing of your tax returns is not accepted until Jan. 15. You may mail your returns in, but the IRS still won't begin processing them until Jan. 15, though you could consider them filed when you mail them. In that case, the earliest date you could file your return would be Jan. 2, because the post office is closed for holiday on Jan. 1.

Cautions of Filing Early

Tax forms can change during the tax season to reflect last-minute changes made by Congress. This might change how much you owe or are getting back for the year. If you file early, you'll be filing in error. According to MSNBC, there is a common belief that returns filed early have a greater chance of being audited.

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