Employers will start withholding that tax as soon as workers' income reaches $200,000, she said. But a two-income couple making, say, $150,000 each won't have the tax withheld, and could end up with a big tax bill next year for this lack of withholding. Having more taken out of paychecks this year will prevent that, she said.

File early Increasingly, identity thieves file fake tax returns using pilfered Social Security numbers. They inflate deductions to generate big refunds that are then directly deposited in their bank accounts. When legitimate taxpayers file, their returns are rejected and they must undergo a lengthy process to prove their identity to get their refund.

The figures are staggering. For the first 10 months of last year, 1.2 million cases of potential identity theft were detected, according to the treasury inspector general for tax administration.

One way to protect yourself is file before a thief can.

Not everyone will be able to file early, though.

"Depending on your return, the IRS may not be ready to process it," said Barbara Weltman, author of J.K. Lasser's "1001 Deductions & Tax Breaks."

That's because 30 forms still are undergoing programming and testing with the IRS. If you need to file one of them, you may have to wait until late February or in March to file, she said. Many of these forms are for businesses, but some, such as the residential energy credit and adoption expense credit, apply to individuals.

When will refunds arrive? Despite the delayed start, the IRS said it will process refunds at the same speed. Nine out of 10 taxpayers can expect their refunds in less than 21 days, the agency said.

The IRS also updated its online "Where's My Refund" tool to provide more details. Electronic filers can get confirmation that the IRS received a return within 24 hours, or four weeks for those filing a paper return. After that, filers can check the tool to find out when the refund was approved and the actual date it was sent.


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