Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Editorial: ID theft, quicker refunds, less stress reasons to file taxes early

Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’ve already received your W-2 and any other necessary paperwork, it might not be a bad idea to get to work on your taxes and get them filed as soon as possible.


During the first week the IRS began accepting returns in 2018, it received 18.3 million and processed more than 6 million refunds during those five days.

Both the IRS, despite the government shutdown, and the Maryland Comptroller’s Office are scheduled to begin processing tax returns on Monday, Jan. 28, this year.


There are a couple of reasons to file taxes earlier, not the least of which is that if you’re expecting a refund, you’ll get it sooner, but perhaps the best reason to do so is to protect yourself against identity thieves from stealing your refund and causing all sorts of potential headaches.

Approximately 90 percent of fraudulent tax returns are filed early, as identity thieves try to get ahead of honest tax filers, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot told the Times during a stop in Carroll County earlier this week.

All a crook needs is your name, Social Security number and date of birth to file a fraudulent tax return with falsified W-2 information to try to claim a refund. And they’ll try to do so earlier in the tax season before the average person files their taxes.

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Once the IRS records show a refund has been paid out, however, when you go to file your real taxes, it’ll be rejected if you attempt to e-file and, if you mail your tax return, you’ll received a notice in the mail from the IRS that someone has already filed using your Social Security number.

If your identity has been stolen, and you are notified by the IRS, it gives you an opportunity to act quickly to protect yourself from future identity theft. When thieves get access to your personal information, they aren’t just going to use it once. Most will attempt to take money from your bank account or open new credit card accounts. Some may even attempt to use your health insurance. If you have any reason to believe your identity has been stolen, you should contact your financial institutions immediately.

If you have another reason to believe your Social Security number may have been stolen and haven’t filed your tax return, you should report the theft to the IRS by calling 1-800-908-4490, to prevent thieves from filing a fake return in your name.

But there are a few other reasons to consider filing your taxes early this year. For one, even though the federal government claims the shutdown won’t affect when you get your tax returns, it’s already been reported that IRS workers recalled from furlough are continuing to miss work, claiming they are facing hardship. Unless the shutdown ends soon, it stands to reason that fewer workers are going to lead to returns and refunds being processed slower.

This year is also the first filing season under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that went into effect at the beginning of 2018. The changes to the tax code doubled the standard deduction and limited a number of itemized deductions. If it’s not clear which way doing your taxes will net you a larger refund, you may want to seek the help of a tax professional. Others might be thinking along the same lines, and demand for these services could be higher this year. Getting your taxes done by a professional early might save you some money, too, before demand picks up as the April deadline approaches.


Even if you’re not among those getting a refund and owe the government money, it may also behoove you to file early. Doing so will let you know how much you owe and gives you a few more weeks to pay it off, allowing you to budget rather than paying it all at once.

Finally, if these aren’t reasons enough, getting your taxes done earlier reduces the stress that comes with waiting until April 15 gets ever closer.