Consumer Advocate

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2019 > Be Prepared To File Taxes and Use Any Refund Wisely

Consumer Advocate RSS feeds

Be Prepared To File Taxes and Use Any Refund Wisely

As Ohioans enter the tax season, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office encourages consumers to file as early as possible and to use any refund wisely. Five tips to consider: 
  • File your taxes as soon as possible. Tax identity theft generally occurs when someone steals your personal information to file a tax return and fraudulently obtain your refund. During the past couple of years, concerns about identity theft have intensified because of data breaches that have exposed individuals’ Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. The best way to combat tax identity theft is to file your taxes early. The sooner you file, the less likely it is that someone can falsely file under your name.
  • Choose a reputable tax preparer. If you choose to use a tax preparer, make sure that the preparer has the credentials you are seeking by visiting the IRS’s Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers or by confirming a Certified Public Accountant’s credentials. Before having your tax return prepared, find out about all associated fees. Ask for a complete breakdown of what you will be charged and why. Research a business with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau, and consider asking trusted friends and family for referrals. Free help might available to eligible taxpayers through the IRS, the Ohio Benefit Bank, or the AARP.
  • Protect your personal information. If you file your taxes online, make sure you use a secure internet connection. If you file by mail, take your completed return directly to the post office. Keep sensitive documents in a secure place. Shred any unneeded documents containing your Social Security number or other sensitive information. 
  • Consider the costs of any “fast” refunds. Offers for instant or “fast” refunds might actually be costly refund-anticipation loans or refund-anticipation checks. These products might involve substantial fees. Avoiding the refund-anticipation loan might save you money without diminishing the amount of your refund. When you have a tax preparer file your taxes electronically (or when you file your own taxes electronically), you can have any refund directly deposited in your bank account, typically within a few weeks. 
  • Use any refund wisely. Be an informed consumer and smart shopper by spending any refund wisely or simply saving it for later. For any major purchases, such as an automobile, do business only with reputable dealers. You can find help researching a company’s reputation through the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Complaints and the Better Business Bureau. Be sure to get everything – including any promises made by the dealer – in writing and read the fine print. For automobiles, take the vehicle for an extended test drive. Ask a trustworthy mechanic to check the car for problems.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.