Tax filing season will begin on January 27, the Internal Revenue Service announced this week. That's when Americans can start sending in their tax returns.

The IRS says taxpayers can prepare their returns before the January 27 date. They just cannot file until then.

"The IRS encourages everyone to consider filing electronically and choosing direct deposit," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. "It's fast, accurate and the best way to get your refund as quickly as possible."

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It's generally advised that you prepare and file your taxes as early as possible. If an identity thief can get your information, they may be able to hijack your refund before you file.

The IRS says taxpayers can get free tax preparation help using  IRS Free File online or get free tax help from trained volunteers at community sites around the country.

The deadline to file and pay any tax owed is April 15.