You have until April 15, 2020, to file your federal income taxes for 2019. That gives you plenty of time, so you might be thinking there’s no reason to worry about W-2s and deductions yet – right?


Filing your taxes as early as possible is the smart move. It will give you peace of mind. It will help you avoid last-minute scrambling to meet the deadline. If you’re getting a refund, it will also help you get your hands on your money as fast as possible. These are all good reasons to file early, but there’s another reason that’s even more compelling. Filing your taxes as soon as possible may be the best way to avoid becoming the victim of tax-related identity theft.

How Tax-Related Identity Fraud Works

Let’s say you wait until April 15 to do your taxes. It’s cutting it close, sure, but your taxes are simple and you’re confident you’ll have plenty of time. When you try to e-file, though, you get a message that your e-filing can’t go through because someone has already filed under your Social Security Number. Now you’re confused – and about to miss the tax deadline.

Or maybe you file through the mail. You’re expecting a nice refund, but instead you get a notice that you owe the IRS money.

It’s possible that someone has been filing fraudulent tax returns using your name and Social Security Number. This is a common type of scam designed to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

What to Do if You’re a Victim

To avoid becoming the victim of tax-related identity theft, you should file your return as soon as you can. Additionally, keep your Social Security Number safe and consider using a credit monitoring and identity theft protection service, especially if your information has been involved in a data breach.

You should also look out for signs of tax-related identity theft. If you get a notice from the IRS about a suspicious return or a return you didn’t file, or if your e-filing is rejected as a duplicate, you might be already be the victim of an identity thief.

According to the IRS, if this happens, you should go ahead and file your taxes. If you can’t e-file, file by paper. Also, complete Form 14039, the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, and send this in with your tax return. The Identity Theft Victim Assistance organization will then review your case and seek to resolve it.