Four things you need to know before doing your taxes in California

(BPT) - California families rely on tax refund money. Our survey of tax filers who claim the earned income tax credit found that two-thirds said it would be challenging to pay for essential living expenses if they did not receive a tax refund this year. That’s why it’s important for California filers to make sure they get every credit, deduction — and dollar — they deserve. These four things you need to know before doing your taxes will help you this tax season.

You should file a tax return

Each year, the IRS reports it has roughly $1 billion in unclaimed refunds just from people who didn’t file a return. So you may want to file a return even if you aren’t required to. You could file to claim a refund of taxes withheld or you may qualify to claim a refundable credit like the earned income credit. One in five people who are eligible for the earned income tax credit do not claim it.

Filing early can help protect your tax identity from being stolen and your refund delayed

If your Social Security number is stolen and used to file a fraudulent return, your tax refund could be delayed as much as six months or longer. File your tax return early in the season with a reputable preparer to shorten the window of opportunity for a thief to use your information instead. Californians can also help guard their tax identity by protecting their personal information and being aware of phishing and other scams. Additionally, H&R Block retail and do-it-yourself (DIY) clients can purchase Tax Identity Shield®.

Your refund could be delayed because of anti-fraud laws

The IRS is required to hold refunds for returns claiming the earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit. As many as 25 million taxpayers could have their refunds delayed until the first week of March. The Refund Advance loan* at H&R Block can help bridge that time gap. You could get up to $3,500 interest free and within minutes of filing.

The best way to get a good start on your taxes is organizing your documents

Whether you are going to have a professional prepare your return or you plan to take the DIY route, having all your tax-related documents is critical for filing an accurate tax return. Missing tax documents can lead to missing out on tax benefits you are entitled to claim.

Even before financial reports and tax documents arrive, you can get a head start on the process by collecting other information you will need but won’t find in a report. For example, you’ll need the Social Security numbers and birthdates of everyone listed on the return — self, spouse and dependents. Create your own personalized tax document checklist to make sure you don’t forget any documents. Then, you can also get organized digitally through H&R Block’s secure portal, MyBlock, where you can upload and organize your documents so everything is ready to file. It’s free for anyone to create an account and use.

You can visit us at hrblock.com or stop by your nearest California office — it’s easy and quick.

*This is an optional tax refund-related loan from Axos Bank®, Member FDIC; it is not your tax refund. Loans are offered in amounts of $250, $500, $750, $1250 or $3500. Approval and loan amount based on expected refund amount, ID verification, eligibility criteria, and underwriting. If approved, funds will be loaded on a prepaid card and the loan amount will be deducted from your tax refund, reducing the amount paid directly to you. Tax returns may be e-filed without applying for this loan. Fees for other optional products or product features may apply. Limited time offer. Available at participating locations. Not offered in Puerto Rico. HRB Maine License No. FRA2. OBTP#B13696 See hrblock.com/refundadvance for details. ©2019 HRB Tax Group, Inc.