Tax Returns: 6 Steps To Filing Early

Budget planning concept,Accountant is calculating company's annual tax.
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Most taxpayers are more concerned with the last date that they can file their taxes rather than the first date. After all, filing your taxes can be tedious, can take a lot of time and can end up with you writing a big check to the IRS.

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But the flip side is that if you file early, you can get this sometimes onerous task over with soon — and, if you’re due a refund, you’ll get it that much faster. But what exactly do you need to do in order to file early? Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way.

Check the IRS Filing Date

There is not one standard early tax-filing date. Every year, typically in early to mid-January, the IRS announces when tax-filing season will begin. On Jan. 12, 2023, the IRS formally announced that the earliest date you can file your taxes for the 2022 tax year would be Jan. 23.  

An important thing to note is that most Americans won’t be able to file quite this early, as most important tax documents — such as W-2s and 1099s — aren’t required to be issued until Jan. 31. So, unless you have the simplest of returns, with little-to-no income, you may not actually be able to file your return until February. 

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Review Last Year’s Return

A great way to prepare for an early tax filing is to review your prior year’s return. Although there might always be changes from year to year, the tax situation for many Americans remains fairly static. Looking at your prior year return should remind you of what you needed to file last year and what may be different with this year’s filing.

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Collect Year-End Statements

Although you might not have all of your necessary tax documents by Jan. 23, you should have the year-end statements for all of your financial accounts. These can be immensely helpful in preparing you to file your taxes early.

For example, your bank account statements will show all of your income for the year, along with any checks you have written for deductible expenses such as charitable contributions. Your brokerage statements will show all of your transactions for the year, including any dividends or interest you may have earned. Although these won’t be “official” amounts, they’ll give you a head start in preparing for your tax filing.

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Organize Your Receipts

Not all of your deductible expenses may be readily apparent from your year-end statements. For example, if you donated cash or personal belongings to charity, the only record you may have might be your receipts. If you run your own business, receipts can be particularly important, as they document deductions you might want to claim, such as business lunches or supplies. Having all of these receipts in order will make filing your tax return early much easier.

Know Which Forms To Look Out For 

Even though you won’t receive many of your tax forms until after Jan. 31, you generally should be able to anticipate which ones you will receive. For example, if you work for an employer, you should expect a W-2. If you have a side gig, run your own business or receive dividend or interest income, you should look for one or more 1099s. If your tax situation is similar to last year’s, look at which forms you filed and look for the same. If things have changed — e.g., if you bought or sold a house — you should anticipate receiving additional tax forms. 

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Pre-Fill What You Can Into Your Tax Software

You usually can get started filling out your forms online. At the very least, you can input your personal information, such as your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. If you still have the same employer as last year, you also can enter their identifying information to give you a head start.

If you have a good handle on your income and expenses due to a review of your statements, you can enter your estimates of those numbers into your tax software so you have an approximation of your tax liability or refund. Then, when your final tax documents arrive, you can simply update those figures to the exact numbers.

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About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.
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