Five things early tax filers need to know with Nicole Lapin

If you're organized, and ready, the I.R.S. has begun accepting tax returns, but there are some important things you need to know before you file your tax returns this early. Financial expert Nicole Lapin is here with the latest tips.

Opening Day for the IRS was Monday.

That's when the Internal Revenue Service will start accepting electronically filed tax returns. The tax filing deadline this year is Tuesday, April 18, What do tax filers need to know this season?

  1. Make an appointment if you want to talk to someone at IRS offices

Don't expect to drop into an IRS office to get any help this tax season. All offices are appointment-only now.
If you need to visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in person, you must schedule a time by calling 844-545-5640 for the appointment hotline.

Taxpayers are asked to check IRS.gov for the days and hours of service, as well as the services offered at the location they plan to visit.

  • Beware of a new hurdle if you've used a special Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

Some tax filers will be unable to file their federal tax returns if they do not update Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. Warning: Any ITIN that has not been used in the past three years will no longer work for filing that return.

On top of that, individual tax identification numbers that have middle digits of 78 or 79 also expired this year.
Tax filers in these situations must renew an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number as early as possible because they cannot file a tax return without one.

  • Some struggling families will face delays for their tax refunds

The IRS notes that more than nine out of 10 refunds will be issued within less than 21 days, which is good news.
Tax filers who benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit should not expect their refunds until possibly the week of Feb. 27, even if they file as soon as this week.

Congress is cracking down on tax-return-related fraud. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act mandated the IRS delay issuing tax refunds for returns claiming the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit until Feb. 15. The move is designed to give the IRS more time to detect fraud and prevent refunds from being issued to ID thieves who file fake tax returns using such credits.

Another thing to note: The IRS online "Where's My Refund" tool will not show an estimated date for many tax returns involving the special credits until after Feb. 15.

  • Look out for tax refund advances

Tax filers might be tempted by refund anticipation loans that proclaim "no fee" will be charged. But Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, warns that in some cases, borrowers could face other higher fees for tax preparation or another product.

Advance loans are being heavily marketed this year by some firms, including H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, in light of the new delays ahead for tax refunds for those who file those Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit.

  • Take a close look at that W-2 Form

Some tax filers are going to discover that they have to deal with a "Form W-2 Verification Code." About 50 million W-2 forms will include a 16-digit verification code that tax filers or preparers will need to add when prompted by tax software. About 2 million W-2s had such a code during the 2016 filing season.

The IRS anticipates that the verification code ultimately will be used on all W-2 forms in future years. Again, we're looking at another hurdle to try to corral the crooks and prevent the filing of fake tax returns.

  • Remember, scam artists

Earlier in January, the IRS warned that cyber criminals were pretending to be tax filers who wanted help filing their returns.

"The tax professional may think they are downloading a potential client's tax information or accessing a site with the potential client's tax information," the IRS warned.

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