The Internal Revenue Service won’t accept your 2016 Federal tax return until January 23,

 2017—but it has already warned taxpayers that they’ll need to be patient about receiving 2016 tax refunds.

Here’s a look at the reasons the IRS has announced the delay, along with tips to minimize the wait for your tax refund in 2017.

Improved security measures.   On January 5, 2017 the IRS released a statement that it will process more than 150 million individual tax returns for the 2016 Federal tax year.  If the amount of taxpayers who will receive a tax refund is similar to the 2015 tax year, about 70% of them will get a tax refund of about $2,000.

Yet, the IRS’ past issues with tax fraud are no secret; that ongoing battle means the IRS very must proactively work to reduce the threat that it will continue.

As part of that effort, the IRS announced that it will strategically target tax returns that claim two credits, which are commonly used to commit taxpayer fraud: The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which may be available to low and moderate income workers, and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC ).

While the IRS says taxpayers who are owed a tax refund as a result of eligibility for either of these credits shouldn’t intentionally delay filing their tax return, any refunds owed as a result of will not be processed until February 15th, thanks to a law recently passed by Congress stating as much.  Yet, because that date happens to fall near President’s Day (and a few weekends) the IRS warns taxpayers with these credits not to expect their tax refund any sooner than February 27, 2017.

You can’t do much to get your tax refund before the end of February in this instance, but there are a few steps to make sure that your 2016 tax refund arrives as quickly as possible.  Here’s how:

  • Opt for electronic deposits. Authorize the IRS to deliver your tax refund to your bank account via direct deposit.  You’ll eliminate the three to four weeks that the process of cutting a paper check introduces, along with the amount of time you’ll wait for snail mail delivery.
  • Update your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. If you don’t have a Social Security Number, you must file your Federal tax refund using an ITIN. Check to make sure that this nine digit number (which always begins with a 9) hasn’t expired. The IRS notes that any ITIN that hasn’t been used in the past few years is automatically considered expired, along with those that have the numbers 78 or 79 as middle digits. It can take seven or more weeks to secure a new, valid ITIN.
  • Know your 2015 adjusted gross income. E-filers will be asked to enter their 2015 adjusted gross income (AGI) before their electronic tax return filing is considered complete. Now that the IRS no longer accepts e-File PIN numbers as a means of filer verification, it’s crucial that you have access to this number to complete your 2016 Federal electronic tax return.
  • Complete all required information. Innocent omissions or oversights on your tax return can lead to delays in receiving your refund.
    • If you include dependents on your tax return, include their social security numbers.
    • Verify the accuracy of your own basic information, including your name, address, and social security number.
    • If you’ll file a paper return, confirm that you have printed, signed, and dated all required pages (and that your spouse does the same if you file jointly).
    • If you’ll mail a hard copy of your tax return to file, weigh the envelope to verify it has enough postage to get it to its final destination.
  • Keep the traditional tax day top of mind. Your 2016 tax return isn’t technically due until Tuesday, April 18, 2017, but it can’t hurt to keep the traditional date of April 15 top of mind. It falls on a Saturday this year, but when you mentally commit to file your tax return by this date, you have the peace of mind that it’s been submitted on time.