Prep tips for tax filing

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I've already been getting the paperwork I'll need to file my taxes - the W-2 arrived just this week - plus bank interest statements, a mortgage interest statement - all things I'll need to file my taxes.

Right now is the time to organize all that paperwork by finding a safe place to put all your tax forms as they're arriving in the mail.

But the question we're considering at our house is whether we'll do the faxes ourselves, or have a professional tax preparer put it all together.

Each year, there are changes to tax deductions and laws. However, there are also programs updated to make filing your taxes easier. So we asked financial expert Elaine Bedel her thoughts on which was the better way to go.

"If you just have a W-2, or even a 1099, it's pretty simple," Bedel advised. "It's not hard to do. If you're willing to do that, it could save you money on the fee part, as well."

Eighty-percent of Americans now file online, giving rise to an increase in identity theft cases. In four years from 2008 to 2012, identity theft cases increased ten-fold.

But those forms are still in your mailbox, which is still the first place thieves might look to get important information, like your Social Security number.

Bedel said to really protect yourself is hard. "If they have your name and Social Security number, they can file a tax return. And if they file before you to their account, if you file early enough, that will help. They'll take the first return under that Social Security number."

And keep track of what documents you should have. Get your mail out of the box as soon as it arrives.