Did you know that 30% of taxpayers file by the first week of February? I found it difficult to believe but apparently it’s true, according to an email I received from the folks at TaxCut. 30% of people file between January 1st and February 7th. Of course, the other 70% file on April 15th!
Why File So Early?
People file early because they want their tax refund as quickly as possible. Why wait until April 15th to file when the government owes you money? If your only income is from your job (and maybe some bank interest), chances are you the government owes you a tax refund unless you adjusted your tax withholding. If you didn’t adjust your withholdings on your W-4, I’m fairly confident the government will owe you money and by not filing ASAP you are extending the interest free loan.
The reason why people even have to wait in until the first week of February is because employers and banks have until January 31st to mail out W-2s and 1099-INTs. However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until the first week to begin the filing process. If you have your December pay stub, you will have pretty accurate numbers to use as placeholders. You can look up all your bank interest by calling or logging in to your bank account and looking for a tax form. While I would wait until the official W-2 form arrives before e-filing (especially since they will ask for information not typically printed on your stub), nothing stops you from filling out the form now and updating the numbers when your W-2 arrives.
What You Can Do Now
So, want to get a jump? First, check to see if you qualify for free tax preparation. There’s no sense paying for software if you can get it for free. If you earn under $52,000 a year, you can access the IRS Free File Program (details to come Jan 16th) as well.
If you don’t qualify, you have the option of going online or buying the software in a box. In the past, I used TurboTax Online a few times. I don’t think there’s much difference between TurboTax and TaxCut, outside of pricing. I personally like the online version because I’m comfortable entering all that sensitive information online but if you aren’t, the software from a box is just as good.
With the exception of your income, you already have every other piece of information. You already know all of your tax deductions, all the tax credits you should be eligible for (if not, the tax preparation software will ask you), and everything else the form or software will require. You’re just missing the official income numbers, which will arrive by early February. Fill out everything else and wait for your official tax forms. With your placeholder numbers, you have a good idea of the refund (or tax due). If you end up owing tax, just wait until April!
I always e-file and I always opt for direct deposit. By e-filing, you don’t have to worry about the post office losing it or having your sensitive information floating around. By direct depositing, you get your money much faster. If you e-file your taxes on February 6th and requested direct deposit, you can get your rebate within two weeks. Last year, if you filed within the first week of February, you received the direct deposit by February 13th! (2008 schedule)