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Why to file your taxes early this year and how to check your refund status

Posted at 5:07 PM, Feb 22, 2024

DENVER — It's tax season again which means software systems like TurboTax will soon be put into overdrive to submit the state and federal filings for millions of Americans. But before waiting until the last minute to send off your documents, know that there are some big benefits to filing early.

The first one is obvious: peace of mind.

“The sooner you get it off your plate, the sooner you cannot have to worry about it anymore and get on with other things,” said Erik Krom, the president and founder of Clear Creek Advisors.

Another reason to file early: you're likely to get your refund more quickly. The later in the tax season it is, the more people are filing and the more backlogged the IRA becomes, so the early bird gets the return.

Also, if there's a problem with your return or you owe money, the earlier you do your taxes, the more time you'll have to go meet with a professional to work through the issues. You’ll also have more time to start making payments if you owe money.

Perhaps the single biggest reason to file early, though, is to stop identity theft.

“Identity theft just continues to be a bigger and bigger risk for all of us,” Krom said. “The longer you leave your return open, you know, the more time there is for criminals or those that are looking to do things that, you know, that might be stealing your identity or getting refunds on your behalf.”

One reason not to file early, though, is paperwork. If you're still waiting on documents from your student loans or your retirement account, hold off until you get everything.

How to check your refund status

The IRS issues most refunds within 21 days. If you filed your taxes electronically, you can check the status 24 hours after the government receives it.

For paper filings, meanwhile, senders can start checking for their refund status four weeks after mailing out the paperwork.

The IRS2Go app on your smartphone can check on the refund. It also accepts payments from people who owe money on their taxes and it offers free tax preparation help and resources.

If you would rather get things done on the computer, visit the IRS Where’s My Refund website. In order to check on the refund, you will need to enter in your social security number, refund amount you believe you are owed, your filing status and the filing year.

Once you're logged in, there are three status options for your refund: received, approved and sent so you can track the check’s progress.

If your tax filing needs to be fixed, the IRS will send you a letter. The IRS will not call you or text you so be wary of scams.

You only need to file a second return if you're owed money, it's been more than 6 months since you filed and the status on the IRS website shows that your paperwork was not received.

Before calling an IRS agent to check on your paperwork, wait three weeks for e-filings and six weeks after mailed filings.

Don’t forget, tax day is April 15.