PhotoIf you overpaid your taxes this year (too much withholding is the main culprit), you'll have a refund coming. And, of course, you'll want that money as soon as you can get it.

The first thing you'll need to do is have all the documents you need -- things like W-2s and 1099s -- before you file your return. You also may need a copy of your 2015 tax return to make it easier to fill out a 2016 tax return.

Beginning next year, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from a prior tax return to verify their identity. Learn more about how to verify your identity and electronically sign your tax return at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins.

Updating your ITIN

Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), any Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) issued prior to 2013 or that haven’t been used for tax-years 2013, 2014, and 2015 will no longer be valid for use on a tax return as of Jan. 1, 2017.

If you have an expiring ITIN and need to file a return in 2017, you'll have to renew it. It typically takes seven weeks to receive an ITIN assignment letter, but can take longer -- 9 to 11 weeks if you wait to submit Form W-7 during the peak filing season or send it from overseas.

Taxpayers who don't renew an expired ITIN before filing a tax return next year could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for certain tax credits. You can get more information on the the ITIN information page on IRS.gov.

Mandated delays

If you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your tax return, the IRS must hold your refund until February 15.

This new law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund -- even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC. This change helps ensure that you get the refund you are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

By the way, you shouldn't rely on getting a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills. Though the IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, some returns are held for further review.

What to do

The easiest way to avoid common errors that delay processing a tax return is to e-file. E-filing is the most accurate way to prepare a return and file. There are a number of e-file options:

Use direct deposit

With direct deposit, the refund goes directly into your bank account. There is no risk of having the refund check stolen or lost in the mail. This is the same electronic transfer system used to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.

Direct deposit also saves taxpayer dollars. It costs the nation’s taxpayers more than $1 for every paper refund check issued but only a dime for each direct deposit made.


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