How to File Taxes Early — and Get Your Return Faster

Here's why filing your tax return early speeds up your refund.

The Internal Revenue Service tax deadline for filing your federal income tax return is usually April 15, but in 2018, that date occurs on a Saturday and April 16 is a holiday in Washington, D.C. So the deadline to file your 2017 tax return is April 17, 2018. But if you’re among the more than 70 percent of taxpayers expected to receive refunds, you’ll want to file your tax return well before the tax filing deadline so you can get your refund as soon as possible.

Begin Your Return Before the Filing Season Start Date to File Taxes Early

The earliest the IRS accepts returns tends to fall in mid to late January, regardless of whether you file your taxes with a paper copy or you file taxes online with software, and the IRS typically announces this date in December. But your tax preparer or software provider might allow you to use its tax preparation services to complete your return prior to the tax season’s earliest date. Although that won’t get your return filed any earlier with the IRS, it will ensure that your return is complete and ready to send on the start date.

Read on to discover how to make sure your tax return is at the front of the line when the IRS opens its doors so you can put your refund to work for you sooner.

Don’t Miss: 20 Smart Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

Tax Tips to Get Your Refund More Quickly

In general, the main rule is to file your taxes as soon as possible in order to get your refund more quickly. Here are other steps you can take to ensure getting your tax refund as soon as possible:

1. Maintain Records and Documentation

Keep records of activities throughout the year so that when it comes time to file your taxes, all your necessary documentation is in one place. The records and receipts you should keep for tax purposes include records of charitable contributions, business expenses and mileage records. For example, if you make periodic contributions to various charities, it’s much easier to total them as you go during the year than to have to dig through your bank or credit card statements at the end of the year and hope you catch them all.

2. Gather Information for Your Dependents

If you claim anyone as a dependent, you’ll need his Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. You can’t claim the dependents or qualify for the child tax credit without these numbers. And if you don’t get them by the due date for filing your return — including extensions — you miss out on any refund you were entitled to.

3. Receive Your Official Tax Statements

Before you submit your tax return, you’ll need to receive official tax statements such as W-2s and 1099s from employers, banks and investment companies. Though you might want to file your taxes early, these forms are required for you to complete your tax return.

Your employer has until Jan. 31 to file the W-2s, according to the IRS, so you might not be able to file right away if you haven’t received your forms. And if you don’t receive your W-2 by Feb. 14, contact the IRS for assistance in getting the form from your employer. If you file before you receive your form, your refund could be delayed while the information is verified.

4. Use the Correct Tax Forms

To help ensure you get your tax refund quickly, select the correct tax form for your financial circumstances. Anyone can use Form 1040, but it’s also the longest form. You’re required to use Form 1040 in certain circumstances, including:

Form 1040EZ is the shortest form, and Form 1040A is shorter than Form 1040. Using either can save you time when filing your taxes. You can use Form 1040EZ if:

  • You’re single or married and filing a joint return
  • You don’t claim any dependents
  • You have less than $1,500 in taxable interest
  • Your only credit is the earned income credit

Learn More: What Is the Difference Between Tax Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ?

5. Request Direct Deposit

You can request that your refund be directly deposited into your bank account when you file your tax return. About 80 percent of taxpayers select this option rather than receive a paper check, the IRS notes. In addition to receiving the refund sooner, you save the government money: it costs about $1 to process a paper check but only 10 cents to process a direct deposit.

6. Track Your Return and Refund Status With the IRS

You can track your return and the status of your refund by using the IRS“Where’s My Refund?” tool.

The tool will provide the most current information regarding the status of your return and the estimated date you can expect your refund. It generally takes 24 hours after you submit your return electronically — or four weeks after submitting a paper return — for your information to enter the database.

Find Out: 6 Reasons Why Your Refund Will Be Late This Year

A word of caution: If you claim certain tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit, your tax refund could be delayed. Under new procedures that began in 2017, refunds for returns that include claims for those credits can’t be issued until Feb. 15, with most refunds not reaching taxpayers until the end of February at the earliest.