Identity thieves can steal your identity by electronically filing fraudulent tax returns.

If you’re like many Americans, you may not start thinking about filing your tax return until the tax deadline (April 18) is just a few weeks, or even just a few days, away. But there’s another date you should keep in mind: January 19. That’s the date the IRS began accepting 2015 returns, and filing as close to that date as possible could protect you from tax identity theft.

How Filing Your Tax Return Early Helps Prevent Identity Theft
In this increasingly common scam, thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. When the real taxpayers file, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate tax returns.

Tax identity theft can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay legitimate refunds. But if you file first, it will be the thief who’s filing the duplicate return—not you.

Another Key Tax Date to be Aware of
You will also need to have your W-2s and 1099s to file. So another key date to be aware of is February 1 — the deadline for employers to issue 2015 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue 1099s to recipients of any 2015 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments.

An Added Bonus
An added bonus of filing early is if you’re eligible for a tax refund, you’ll be able to enjoy that refund sooner.

If you’d like additional information on tax return identity theft, check out the IRS’ “Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.” And if you have questions about tax identity theft or if you would like help filing your 2015 tax return early, contact our tax professionals.