Money Matters: Don't wait until April to talk taxes

Education Resources, Finance 411,

This year, federal income tax returns are due April 17. Typically, April brings a slew of tax-related consumer finance stories.

This year, there’s a very good reason not to wait until April to talk to your audience about tax returns.

What’s the news?

Well, tax season officially opened on January 29 when the IRS began accepting returns. That could be news, if less exciting than refund season.

Employers must send W-2 statements to their employees by January 31. There’s a story idea there, too: What do you do if you do not receive your W-2?

Here’s why your audience really needs to start thinking about filing taxes now: scams.

One of the big financial stories this year was the Equifax data breach, and its ensuing problems aren’t over.

Even savvy consumers who froze their credit during breaches this year may be at risk if scammers have acquired enough personal information to file tax returns in their names and claim their refunds.

There is little recourse for consumers aside from filing early, before scammers have a chance to do so.

Help your audience beware and avoid tax identity theft and other common tax scams with your personal finance stories.

One good place to start your reporting: the Identity Theft Resource Center, which offers additional tax-time tips for keeping data safe.

Here are some more anti-scam story ideas:

  • Many taxpayers file their forms online. Are there any security risks associated with tax filing software? Talk to a software security expert for tips on choosing filing programs.
  • Tax season brings a flurry of advertisements for paid tax preparers. What are the qualifications to be a tax preparer? Are there scams to watch out for? Talk with your local chapter of the National Association of Tax Professionals for tips for finding quality professional help.
  • Businesses can be vulnerable to tax scams, not just individual consumers. Find out if any local businesses have been scammed.

Weekly Money Matters personal finance content for your newsroom is sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial EducationSubmit your story idea.