(WAFB) - It's that time of year again when taxpayers are eager to get more money in the bank.
Experts say one of the many benefits of filing taxes early is getting cash back, but there's another major issue that people might forget: someone filing your taxes before you get a chance and becoming a victim of identity theft.
Shanta Bonius, president and CEO of Eagle Eye Tax Solutions, says if you're a victim of identity theft and some files before you, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would have to determine who's the rightful taxpayer and that could take months to clear up, potentially pushing back your refund date.
Another reason to rush to the tax office is to avoid penalties. The deadline to file this year is April 17.
"Seems like a long time away, but that time will sneak up on us," Bonius said. "It just makes sense if you have all your documents and you can go ahead and get those together and prepared, that's one less thing you have to worry about," she said.
Filing early, according to tax professionals, also gives people more time to pay overdue taxes back. According to the IRS, the average refund in 2016 was $2,895, and this year, they're expecting more than 70 percent of taxpayers to get refunds, but experts say don't be blinded by companies guaranteeing big bucks. "Please don't be attracted to large refund amounts," Bonius said. She says taxpayers should gravitate more towards experts that can be researched and who are "more concerned about your individual tax situation and getting you the best results."
And for first-time filers, who experts say are mostly college students, bring proper ID, make sure you aren't a dependent, and have a list of all places of employment. "You will receive some type of income reporting document from all of your employers, so don't be quick to file with that first one. Make sure you have all your income accounted for," Bonius said.
Experts say taxpayers can always file for an extension, but they will still face a penalty. Bonius says the new tax law will not affect this 2017 filing, however, taxpayers are encouraged to speak with their tax professional about planning for the changes in 2018.
Click here for more information from the IRS on filing a tax return.