File your taxesWith February coming to a close, we’re almost halfway through tax season, which means the April 18 deadline is quickly approaching. Even though you still have some time to file your taxes, it’s in your best interest to file sooner rather than later. Don’t believe us? Here are some of the benefits you’ll get from filing your taxes while it’s still early in the season.

Earlier refund

This one’s pretty straightforward — first in, first out. The IRS processes returns on a first come, first serve basis so typically those who file earliest can expect to have their refunds sooner rather than later. Similarly, earlier returns tend to be processed faster, as the bureau isn’t as busy as it will be in April. If you opt to e-file, most tax preparation services have a “Where’s My Refund?” feature that allows you to check on the status of your refund — the IRS also offers this feature to both e-filers and those who file via mail. Keep in mind, though, that any sort of error or other mishap with your return will definitely complicate the process and lengthen the waiting period. Also be aware that IRS might be slower during seasons with higher instances of fraud, which has been occurring more frequently in the last several years. The important thing for all taxpayers to remember is to file when they’re ready, as rushing your return might not be worth it if you make a mistake.

More time to pay

Even though you don’t have to pay until the April deadline, filing earlier makes it much easier to be aware of what is owed to the IRS so you can plan accordingly and help you avoid any late fees or interest on the owed balance. If you aren’t able to pay upfront, the IRS does offer payment plans that you may qualify for. When it comes down to it, the main reason why you should file early is to be aware of the bill so you can keep your finances straight as the year progresses.

Protecting yourself from tax identity theft

The early bird gets the worm, as they say. In this case, unfortunately, the early bird is an identity thief and the worm is your tax refund. Tax identity theft has been a growing concern over the last few years and this serious issue that isn’t going away soon, as the IRS listed identity theft as the No. 1 scam on its Dirty Dozen. The best way to combat tax identity theft is to file your taxes as soon as you can. If you choose to wait until the end of the season, you’re giving a scammer enough time to file as you and claim a refund at your expense. And you can still fall victim even if you aren’t eligible for a refund, as scammers often make up information for the return so it benefits them.

How do you know if you’ve fallen victim to tax identity theft? The only way to know whether or not you’re one of the unlucky taxpayers is to file your taxes yourself. If a tax return has already been filed in your name, your legitimate return will be reject and the IRS will notify you (via mail) and ask you to verify your identity. From there, you will work with the IRS to mark the return as fraud and take the steps towards fixing the problem so you can file an authentic tax return. The IRS provides a step-by-step guide for victims to help them alleviate the situation.

For more tax season tips, tricks and advice follow our tax preparation blog. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet and you’re looking for a tax preparation service, we’ve reviewed several industry leaders, including H&R Block, TurboTax and others.