It’s that time of year again … tax time!

Tax season officially kicked off today as the Internal Revenue Service began  accepting returns.

And this year filing is different. Taxpayers without health insurance will face larger penalties, and those insured by their employers will get a new tax form.

While the deadline for taxes is not until April 18, experts are recommending to get a head start. Start thinking about which documents you will need to begin the process, which should include W-2 forms and others having to do with income. Also gather any pertinent receipts, forms for charitable donations and the like.

The IRS says choosing to e-file and direct deposit for refunds is the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and refund.

If you do choose to file this way, make sure you request a stronger password and security questions. Last year there was a surge of tax fraud, and that’s why tax officials along with tax preparation companies are implementing tighter security measures.

TurboTax, the largest online tax filing service, will now alert users if a second account has been created with their social security number, giving taxpayers a heads up that someone else is trying to file under their name.

This year, the IRS has $290 million in additional funding for efforts to fight identity theft, increase cyber security and improve customer service.  According to the IRS, there have been about 900,000 reports of scammer contacts since October 2013.

And the Torrance Police Department has tips on how you can stay safe from tax scams:

  • Do not to carry your social security card with you, and only give out your social security number if it is absolutely necessary.
  • Check your credit regularly and look over your social security report each year.
  • Keep in mind that many scams happen over the phone. Suspects will call and claim to work for the IRS. The called will try to convince victims that they owe money.
  • Remember, the IRS will never ask for personal information over the phone and never requests immediate payments over the phone.

For more information or to report a possible scam, call the Torrance Police Department at (310) 618-5641.