Get Your Refund Sooner

About two-thirds of Americans can expect a federal tax refund this year. Last year, the average tax refund was more than $2,700.

Fund an IRA

If you get money back, consider using it to fund an individual retirement account for 2015 before the April 18 deadline. The contribution limit is $5,500 for those under 50 and $6,500 for those older.

(You’ll need to estimate your 2015 contribution on your return. Assuming you meet income limits, the contribution will be deducted from your taxable income, increasing your tax savings.) Or use your tax refund toward your 2016 IRA; you’ve got through the next tax season to do so.

Get a Jump on College Aid

You can use information from your tax forms to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Early applicants get more financial aid, says Mark Kantrowitz, president of MK Consulting in Las Vegas and a financial-aid expert.

Buy Yourself Some Time

If you don’t get a tax refund but owe more, knowing the amount before the deadline gives you more time to plan how you’ll pay. You can pay by credit card, but you’ll get hit with a service fee of as much as 2.35 percent of your tax liability. For a list of accepted services that process tax payments by credit card, search for “pay taxes by credit card” at 

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.