The Do’s and Don'ts of Tax Filing Online

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There are plenty of things to take into consideration as you're filing your taxes. You want to make sure that you include all the details of your income over the past year as well as any relevant details about your deductions and expenses. There's one thing, however, that many people fail to take into consideration at tax time: keeping their private data secure. If you're getting ready to file your taxes this year, make sure you're taking the right steps to protect yourself. 

The Do's of Tax Filing

Are you planning to file your 2018 taxes online? If so, make sure you're following these basic steps to keep yourself more secure, whether you're filing from a desktop, a laptop, or a mobile device. 

Do: Make sure that you delete any sensitive information from your phone after filing your taxes. Using your smartphone to file your taxes is simply the next step for many people. After all, you already handle your banking and other financial tasks from the convenience of your phone! After you're done, however, make sure that you delete that private information, from photos to stored data. 

Do: Consider your device carefully. Using a mobile device can make tax prep easier, especially if you no longer have a computer in your home. If you are using a mobile device, however, make sure that you choose a protected device. In many cases, it can be more practical to wait until you can file your taxes at home, on the computer, instead of using your phone. 

Do: Check your antivirus protection. Do you know for certain that your device is protected against malware? Do you know that there's not a keystroke logger on your phone, tracking everything that you program into it? Before you file your taxes, consider installing an antivirus program that will help keep you safer. If you already have antivirus software on your device, run it before you start filing your taxes. Better safe than sorry! 

Do: Use a private network. No matter what device you use to file your taxes, make sure you use a private network, not a public one. Even filing your taxes during a break at work could leave you open to a hacker stealing your data. Wait until you're at home, on a network you can trust. Check the security of your home network before you begin: if there are unfamiliar devices on the network or if you're still using the default password for your router, you may want to make some upgrades to your home security before you file your taxes. 

Do: Know what security measures are available on your preferred tax program. Carefully research the options available on your preferred platform to keep your information safer. You may also want to research your preferred platform to learn what options are available: many tax prep apps offer only their basic versions for free, which means you may need to pay to upgrade your tax prep to the highest possible level. This is particularly important if your taxes are complicated.

Do: Verify your website. Avoid clicking on a link from an email or text message. Instead, input your tax prep website directly. Check for the padlock and "secure" notification before you begin putting in data. 

The Don'ts of Tax Filing Online

You know that you need to keep yourself safe as you file your taxes. To avoid breaches and protect your personal data, try some of these key strategies. 

Don't: Leave sensitive information on your device. Did you take pictures of your W2's or other private documents to file your taxes? While this is a great way to keep the information close at hand, make sure that you delete it from your device after you file. You can always go back and take another picture, but it can be very difficult to keep that information private and protected. 

Don't: Leave yourself logged in to your tax prep website. Storing passwords is incredibly common, especially on mobile devices. Resist the urge to leave yourself logged in or to save the password to these private websites! Instead, go ahead and log out. It may take you a few more seconds to log back in and check on your status or take care of other basic tasks, but it will also help protect you if someone else gets their hands on your device. 

Don't: Use public WiFi to file your taxes. Public WiFi opens your devices to viruses and malicious traffic at the best of times. When you're filing your taxes, you don't want to take the risk! Instead, file your taxes at home or on another trusted, private network. 

Don't: Ignore software updates. It's often tempting to put off software updates, especially if you're in the middle of another task. If you have a software update pending on the device that you're about to use to file your taxes, however, go ahead and install it. That update could contain vital patches to security that can help protect your data. 

Don't: Use a device that's glitching or having regular problems. You know that you need to replace your phone, but you've been putting it off. (Hey, that's one great use for your tax return!) Unfortunately, if you have known issues with your device, now isn't the time to use that device. Tax prep apps may not function properly if you use a mobile device that isn't functioning as well as it should, which could increase your frustration and compromise your tax forms.

Don't: Use a public device. Is your device shared? From the computer at the library to a work computer that's used by many people over the course of the day, public devices may be tempting in their convenience--but they also pose a serious security risk. Avoid using a public device to file your taxes.