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Tax Season Just Started. Here's What You Need to Know

Monday is the first day you can file your 2016 income tax returns — but don't worry if you haven't started yet.
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Monday is the first day you can file your 2016 income tax returns.

Don't worry if you haven't started. Employers have until Jan. 31 to send you the W-2 and 1099 forms most people need to complete their returns.

If you had investment income last year, you may have to wait until mid-February before you receive all the necessary paperwork.

You have until April 18, three days longer than usual, to file. If you file for an extension, you have until Oct.16 to complete your return.

"Don't file your taxes too early," said Scott Hughes, a certified financial planner and managing partner at Hughes Financial Services in Herndon, Virginia. "For investors who expect 1099s for their taxable investments, remember that many firms send corrected 1099s. To avoid having to refile your taxes, wait until late March or early April."

Even if you file early, you may have to wait longer to get your refund anyway.

Taxpayers who claim the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit will have to wait until Feb. 15 to receive their refund. Even then, taxpayers may not have access to their cash until Feb. 27 because a new law requires the IRS to hold on to the entire refund for those filers in order to crack down on fraud.

Related: IRS Warns Some Tax Refunds Might Be Delayed

Whenever you file, it helps to have a system to keep tabs on your tax documents, said Sheila Brandenberg, a certified public accountant in Teaneck, New Jersey.

"That system can be as simple as a folder for all your documents," she said. "Doing your taxes is really something you should do all year long, not just during tax season, by keeping good records."

You also will need tax documents to receive many popular deductions and credits, such as the mortgage interest deduction and child care tax credit.

Once you have your forms, you have plenty of options to file your taxes at little to no cost.

And three major tax-prep software makers, TaxAct, TaxSlayer and TurboTax, are making it easier for users to save for retirement this tax season.

Speaking of retirement savings, remember you can still make 2016 contributions to your traditional and Roth IRAs until April 18.

"Tax season didn't just begin ... because it never ends. It only gets more intense," said David Demming, a certified financial planner in Aurora, Ohio.