The Most Important Thing You Can Do About Your Tax Return

File early.

Bottom line up front: get it done. Immediately.

This has been a tax season defined by scandal and fraud, and the easiest way to make sure you get ahead of any potential issues is to make certain that you are the first to file with your SSN.

The reason it's so important: during fiscal year 2013, the IRS took an average of 278 days to resolve an identity theft case. So unless you're willing to wait NINE MONTHS for your refund, I'd strongly recommend getting your return filed quickly and efficiently.

Getting your return filed first means that a potential hacker, not you, will be locked out of the e-file system. The race is on, and it's already mid-March.

Exemplifying how bad the problem is at the moment, earlier today the IRS suspended it's online identity theft PIN system. The IRS system designed to protect against identity theft itself was hacked last week.

Here's a timeline:

March 7th (i.e., today): IRS Suspends Identity Protection PIN Service 

"The IRS is conducting a further review of the application that allows taxpayers to retrieve their IP PINs online and is looking at further strengthening the security features on the tool."

Why is the IRS doing this? Last week, Quartz reported that the IRS identity theft protection system - the program DESIGNED to alleviate identity theft with respect to tax filings - itself was hacked:

March 1st: The IRS is using a system that was hacked to protect victims of a hack—and it was just hacked

"If someone loses their PIN, they can retrieve it by logging into a service on the IRS website. And that login process is secured by the same technology that hackers broke through in the original data breach."

February 26th - Efforts To Access Taxpayer Accounts Twice As Bad As Originally Thought

"[T]he IRS revealed that, after additional review, they had discovered that at least 220,000 additional taxpayer accounts were potentially affected."

The legal system is responding, however slowly:

March 1st - 34 indicted in $22M tax-fraud scheme

"More than 30 people are accused of filing fake tax returns, bilking the federal government out of more than $22 million, according to a grand jury indictment."

Bottom line again: file early to avoid this nonsense.