Identity theft protection, benefits for filing early, important documents to remember

February 21, 2019 | Tracy Randle, CA$H Program director

Now that tax season is underway, there are a few things you should know to make filing your taxes less stressful. 

1. Protect yourself against ID theft:

  • Don’t over-share on social networking websites. Set your privacy settings on the highest level and refrain from sharing too many personal facts like birthdate and information that could be used to answer a security question.

  • Maintain anti-virus and anti-malware software. Decline when asked to save your password for a site and keep your anti-virus and malware software up to date.

  • Handle financial documents with care. Shred documents you do not need anymore.

  • Create strong passwords. Stay away from obvious passwords (12345). Use special characters, capitals, and numbers in your passwords. 

  • Be careful with unsecured Wi-Fi. Do not do banking or other secure transactions in a café or other open Wi-fi network. It is better to wait until you get home and make sure your home Wi-fi is secured by password. 
  • Don’t be reeled in by phishing scams. Do not click links or attachments in emails of senders you do not know and more importantly, read your emails carefully before you take any actions that is requesting that you click. Phishing scams have grown more creative.

  • Monitor credit and bank accounts closely. Check your credit and debit card statements carefully on a regular basis (weekly) and address any purchase (even if it is less than $20) that does not seem like it belongs to you. Fraudsters typically try to see if they can make many small purchases before they go for the larger ones. Also, get a credit report regularly to make sure no accounts have been opened in your name that do not belong to you.


2. File your taxes as early as possible. 

  • Early filers average larger refunds. IRS data shows that taxpayers who file by late-February get significantly larger refunds than those who file later. The sooner you start on your taxes, the more opportunity you have to make sure you’re claiming all the deductions you’re eligible for, which takes more time and documentation than claiming the standard deduction

  • Early filers can protect their refunds from identity thieves. Filing early may not eliminate the threat of identity theft, but it can protect your refund. If thieves file a return using your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will kick out your return since their records show you’ve already filed. It can take months to clear up the mess with the IRS and finally receive your refund.

  • Early filers eliminate tax deadline stress. Taxes can be an unpleasant task. It’s best to get it out of the way as soon as possible. Give yourself ample time with a deadline well ahead of the April deadline—to get your taxes taken care of. Then you can relax while everyone else stresses out about getting their taxes done on time.

  • Early filers with a tax bill have time to plan. When you’re facing an income tax bill instead of a refund, it’s natural to put off filing as long as possible. Go ahead and fill out your tax forms and file them anyway because you’ll know exactly how much you have to pay. Taxes do not have to be paid in full until the April filing deadline. You will give yourself more time to come up with the money.


3. Everyone must bring the following items with them to a tax appointment:

  • Social Security cards for yourself and all your dependents 

  • Photo I.D. for you (and spouse) 

  • Routing number and account number for your bank account (or your checkbook) for direct deposit  

  • Forms showing income (bring all that apply):

  • Form W-2 from each employer showing earned income 

  • Form 1099-G showing unemployment compensation and state or local tax refunds

  • Form SSA-1099 form showing the total Social Security benefits paid to you for the year 

  • Form RRB-1099, Tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits 

  • Form 1099-INT and/or 1099-DIV showing interest and dividends/Form 1099-B showing sales of stocks and bonds.  

  • Form 1099-R if you received a pension, annuity, or IRA distribution 

  • Form 1099-Misc 

  • All forms and canceled checks indicating federal and state income tax paid (including quarterly estimated tax payments) 

  • Any other tax forms showing income you received even if they are not listed here


United Way and their collaborative partner -- the CA$H Coalition of the Greater Capital Region -- offers three types of tax prep:

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) – for those with HHI below $55,000, VITA features dozens of sites throughout the Capital Region.  At these sites, IRS-trained volunteers prepare the return;
  • FSA. The individual visits a VITA site and files the taxes themselves with guidance from a facilitator who helps utilize the tax software;
  • MyFreeTaxes.Com powered by United Way – individuals (HHI below $66,000) file their taxes themselves from a computer/tablet connected to the internet. 
Additional information is avaiable at or Call 2-1-1, available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.