NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you're handling your own taxes this year, you're not alone. One-third of Americans do their own taxes, according to FatWallet.com, a Beloit, Wis., consumer financial deals provider, and three-quarters get a tax refund, averaging about $3,000 per taxpayer.
If you want your money back faster, you can file your taxes early. By and large, the quicker you file, the faster you get your refund (primarily because so many Americans wait until April 15 to file, adding more volume work for the Internal Revenue Service).
But don't rush it. That means not hitting "send" or heading to the post office until you cross these items off your early filing checklist:
Choose the right preparer. If you're handling your own taxes, best of luck; we hope you know what you're doing. (The IRS offers a free website to file your taxes here.) If you're counting on a tax preparation firm, do your homework.
"Last year, one of the dirty dozen tax scams was Return Preparer Fraud," says Mark Hanson, an IRS spokesman. "There are many fine professionals that do great work, but unfortunately, there are also criminal actions that take place." Watch for telltale signs you may not be getting a good deal: "A tax professional should not be telling you they're going to charge you based on the amount of refund they can get you. Never sign a blank tax return and let someone fill it out for you," Hanson says. "If someone wants you to do that, that might be a red flag you want to go elsewhere."