Affordable Care Act the biggest change in taxes

The Ohio Department of Taxation forms and information on fighting Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud forms are displayed, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, in Cleveland.

As tax season starts up, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs and local tax preparers have tips to make filing as smooth and secure as possible.

A press release from the Department of Consumer Affairs urges customers to file their taxes as early as possible to avoid scammers and identity theft.

Scammers use consumer information to file tax returns and steal refunds before the individual files, the release says.

The release warns that scammers use email, text messaging and phone calls to try and solicit personal information, and may pose as someone from the IRS to trick you into disclosing personal information.

The release also recommends using a secure internet connection when filing electronically, and to choose software because it is reputable, not because it is cheap.

Mike Williams, an enrolled agent with Rhodes-Murphy Income Tax Service, said they are already preparing taxes 10 days into the year.

"The best plan is to bring in your tax information as early as possible, and that way you can plan accordingly. Say you owe the government, you have time to save up the money and pay them when it's due," Williams said.

He said the earliest the IRS is going to start accepting and processing returns is Jan. 29, so if you have any special credits, it's going to take longer for those to be processed.

Both the SCDCA and Williams say researching and making sure your tax preparer is properly credentialed is important.

Williams said he recommends filing with an enrolled agent or CPA.

"If you make a mistake they will charge you interest compounded continuously … it's good idea to have someone with the proper credentials to do your returns," he said.

Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter who joined the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star in June 2017. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.