Ah, late winter. What a fine season!
Thick stews and steaming hot soups for dinner every night… haven’t seen my friends in weeks… onto our second tank of expensive-ass oil heat for the season… so pale and wan I look like one of the tuberculoid Brontë sisters, but with fewer published novels to show for it… people asking me what I want to do for my birthday…
Oh. Wait. I hate late winter!
I’m a procrastinator when it comes to nearly everything, but the one exception is filing taxes early. I love getting my taxes out of the way in February. And there’s a few really good reasons for it.
Lower your risk for identity theft
If some kind of l33t haxx0r gets their hands on your social security number, it’s relatively easy for them to file a fraudulent return in your name and pocket your return funds. Joke’s on anyone who tried to do this to me from 2008-2012! Self employment taxes are a bitch!
This is one of the most common forms of identity theft. Although it can usually be sorted out, it takes a long-ass time to do so—an average of 278 days. I’m sure that involves untold hours of bureaucratic headaches and heartaches.
A tightly protected social security number is a great place to start, but identity thieves could phish this information from gullible family members or steal it from employers with poor information security. That’s why the best secondary line of defense is filing taxes early. Knowing that most people wait until April to file, identity thieves work quickly to file their fraudulent returns first. Beat them to the punch.
It’s especially crucial this year due to the recent Equifax breach, which we wrote about here.
Get a discount with a tax professional
Most of our readers probably don’t need a tax professional. That is my opinion, which is a non-professional opinion. Piggy worked hard on that legal disclaimer, go read it.
It’s hard to believe by looking at them, but tax forms are designed to be filled out by Josephine Everywoman. Innovators like TurboTax have made the process way more user-friendly. They use better design, plainer language, and automated calculators to make everything easier. If you file with something simple, like a 1040A or a 1040EZ, TurboTax should be plenty. In some cases, like this one, it’s much better all around. I love TurboTax, and I really can’t say enough good things about it. And they’re not even paying us to say that! As is clearly stipulated in that awesome legal disclaimer!
These paid professional services aren’t your only option. You can of course still file for free, through the IRS’s official, barely-advertised, and obscure free filing website. It’s a little less user friendly, but again—free!
That said, if you do have extenuating circumstances that make a tax professional necessary, some will give you a discount for filing taxes early. Tax pros work around the clock in March and April. It’s their way of incentivizing you to distribute their workload a little more evenly.
The deadline for paying is still in April
Sometimes your taxes can surprise you. Let’s say you thought you were getting some money back, but it turns out you actually owe $400. If you figure that out on April 14, you’d better hope you can come up with $400 in a single day. (Fun fact: half of all Americans cannot.) If you figure this out in February or March, you at least have a few weeks to figure it out.
Same goes for finding out you’re missing a crucial bit of paperwork, or unable to log into one of your financial sites. You can buy yourself time to research and collect needed information.
Incidentally, if you find that you owe money and you cannot afford to pay it, you should still file your taxes. If you don’t, you’ll just make the situation worse by throwing penalties on top. Contact the IRS to set up alternate arrangements for payment immediately.
Get your money faster
Filing taxes early also means getting that crisp, delicious money sooner!
Not everybody gets a return at tax time, but most do! Eight in ten Americans can look forward to a windfall from Uncle Sam.
… Sorry, I probably just did grave bodily injury to any libertarians reading. Let me try that again: this money does not come from the government, it comes from you, you earned that money and the guv’mint unconstitutionally stole it from you. The sixteenth amendment is a harbinger of state socialism! The smallest minority on earth is the individual!!
Phew. Guys, it’s hard work maintaining our appeal to every demographic.
Feel smug, relaxed, awesome
Around April 15 of each year, my Facebook feed is full of grouchy, confused, stressed out, panicking people. I speak from personal experience when I say it is extremely relaxing to be excluded from this group. As we’ve already discussed, making decisions under stress leads to bad decisions.
The wildebeest must cross the river. You can wait to cross in the crush of a million other wild-eyed, stampeding bovidae, but you’ll have no escape route when the crocodiles glide your way. Better to be the brave and proactive trailblazer. While the others are stampeding headlong into the jaws of a croc, you’re already on the other side, relaxing, enjoying the new grazing grounds, an umbrella drink in your hoof.
(It’s just water though. You’re a wildebeest.)