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How to file your taxes early

Thanks to 2013's government shutdown, the IRS will not start processing returns until Jan. 31. If you want your refund as soon as possible, there are ways to submit your forms early.

By MSN Money producer Jan 13, 2014 2:11PM
By Kay Bell,

Most taxpayers get refunds every filing season. Last year, the average federal tax refund was $2,651.


File folder with 'Taxes' label (© jonathansloane/E+/Getty Images)That's a nice chunk of change, so it's no surprise that the millions of folks who expect money back from Uncle Sam tend to file in January.

It's also no surprise that this year these early filers are upset that they have to wait until Jan. 31 for the Internal Revenue Service to start processing tax returns. The delay is due to the federal government shutdown back in October, which slowed down the agency's updating of forms and testing of its computer systems.


Some taxpayers, however, aren't waiting. They are getting a head start on their tax return preparation so they'll be at the head of the line when the IRS does open its electronic filing doors on Jan. 31.


And popular tax preparation software and franchise tax offices are helping these filers.


E-filed returns being accepted, but held


TurboTax began accepting e-filed returns on Jan. 2.


"TurboTax will securely hold tax returns and submit them to the IRS starting Jan. 31 on a first-in, first-out basis," says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president of Intuit TurboTax. "Last year, the average federal tax refund was almost $3,000. We know how important that money is to our customers. It's why we're encouraging people to file as soon as they can."


That's the same procedure at H&R Block, the country's largest tax preparation company.


"Consumers don't need to wait to prepare their returns. We will transmit it on their behalf," says Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block. "This ensures the return is completed before the IRS opens."

Doesn't apply to paper


This file-and-hold system, however, works only for electronically filed returns.

In announcing the delayed 2014 filing season start, the IRS told taxpayers that "there is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date."


And the IRS used that no-paper-returns-early plea to encourage e-filing, saying, "Taxpayers will receive their tax refunds much faster by using e-file or Free File with the direct deposit option."


Free File opening early


Now about Free File. This IRS partnership with the tax software community will be back in 2014.


And it will be back before the official Jan. 31 filing season starts.

Free File 2014 will start accepting customers on Jan. 17, two weeks before the season opens.


Starting that day, says the IRS, Free File companies will "securely hold your completed tax return until Jan. 31 when the IRS begins accepting returns."


This year, the option to prepare your taxes and e-file them at no cost at the Free File website (available as a link on the home page) is available to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $58,000 or less. That earnings limit applies to all filing statuses.


So if you have all your necessary 2013 tax-filing material, you can go ahead and get it off your desk and your e-filed return into the IRS' holding pattern.

But remember, you won't get your refund any quicker. The IRS won't begin the actual processing of your 1040 form or those of others until Jan. 31.

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Jan 13, 2014 4:39PM
This article has nothing about how to file early...  Please tell me where it says how to file before my employer, bank, etc. send me my W-2, 1099s, 1098, and other forms ???
Jan 13, 2014 4:00PM
How to file your taxes early????  Prepare them and efile them. 
Jan 13, 2014 5:56PM
Looks like Christie's fat azz is done.  Take him out of the oven and let him chill for 30 years on Long Island.
Jan 14, 2014 4:19AM
I would love to file early, however as of 14 January 2014 the public library(the only source for the forms and instructions in town) doesn't have them and the other problem is I can never get my W-2 from the Social Security Administration before the last day of January. Do mine the old fashioned way , figure them myself, fill out the forms, and mail them to the address shown, sit back and wait about six weeks for the refund check. I don not understand why the IRS can't mail the instructions and forms to people who filed the old fashion way the year before.
Jan 13, 2014 4:59PM
I encourage all angry baggers not to file.  Thank You.
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