As the start of the tax filing season is approaching, you may be thinking about who will prepare your 2016 federal tax return or even returns for prior years. The IRS will begin processing tax returns on Monday, January 23rd. However, you do not need to wait till then to submit your documents to your preparer. That can be done anytime after you have received all of your paperwork.

In 2016, over 131 million individual returns were e-filed, and more than 19 million were filed via mail. Many taxpayers pay for tax return preparation, who, by law must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The IRS does urge taxpayers to avoid fly-by-night preparers who may not be available after the filing due date. This year, that date is April 18.

Note that a new law requires all refunds on returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) will be held until February 15, which helps the IRS detect and prevent fraud.