How to navigate tax season safely

Tax Day, April 15, is fast approaching. As you prepare your tax filings to meet the deadline, we have compiled resources and tips to help you protect your identity, avoid fraud, and file safely.  

File as early as possible, even if you don’t owe money 

According to the IRS, there are almost 1 million taxpayers with unclaimed refunds totaling more than $1 billion—just from 2020. These unclaimed refunds will expire after May 17. That’s a good reminder not to leave any money on the table and to file each year, even if you’re confident you don’t owe any taxes. Across the federal, state, and local levels, there are often changes to tax credits and brackets each year, which may apply to you. 

It’s best to file as early as possible. If you have already claimed your refund, that prevents a scammer from filing on your behalf and trying to take the money for themselves. 

Avoid scammers offering to file your taxes for you 

Filing your taxes involves a lot of sensitive information that could be valuable for fraudsters to obtain. Providing this data to the wrong people can increase your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft and experiencing financial loss. You also might face penalties from the IRS for failing to file before the deadline if you mistakenly filed with a fraudulent service.  

The IRS has launched a new online Direct File program, allowing certain eligible taxpayers to file their federal taxes directly with the IRS for free. More information on IRS Direct File can be found here. 

If you are ineligible for IRS Direct File, or if you need to file non-federal taxes, check the IRS’ list of trusted partners. 

Be wary of unexpected tax-related documents and communications 

Proceed with caution when receiving unsolicited tax transcripts, Employer Identification Numbers, W-2’s, notices asking you to take action on a tax preparation account, or letters claiming to be from the IRS during a year you didn’t earn income (or file a tax return). These are often fake notices sent out by scammers, hoping you will panic and send them cash. If they’re legitimate—and you are truly unsure why you are receiving such a document—that may be a sign that someone has stolen your identity and is making filings on your behalf. 

If you owe taxes to the IRS, the agency typically begins notifying you via a paper bill in the mail. You can also check what taxes you may owe at For added security, you can request an IRS Identity Protection (IP) PIN. If your account has an IP PIN, the IRS will automatically send a new IP PIN each year and reject filings for your account that don’t use the IP PIN. However, once you enroll in the IP PIN program, there’s no way to opt out. More information on IP PIN’s can be found here. 

Report tax scams 

If you encounter suspected fraud, it’s best not to interact with the scammer (don’t click any links or open attachments). You can file a report with here and report the incident to the IRS here. 

Reporting fraud is important for agencies and experts to understand what is happening, learn how scams may be evolving, and develop proper safeguards to protect individuals.