After someone stole my tax refund 2 years ago, I found the best way to protect myself is also the easiest

I've filed my taxes with H&R Block two years in a row.

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I’ve filed my taxes with H&R Block two years in a row.
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Lamar Salter/Business Insider

  • Tax Day 2019 is Monday, April 15.
  • I already filed my tax return using H&R Block – it took about an hour, and I should get my tax refund within 21 days.
  • Filing taxes electronically with direct deposit ensures your tax refund gets to your bank account quickly and safely, the IRS says.
  • Two years ago, my tax refund was sent to my house via paper check and ended up getting stolen.

It’s early February – a full 2 1/2 months before Tax Day – and I’ve already filed my taxes using H&R Block.

The IRS started accepting tax returns on January 28. It feels great to have checked that daunting task off my to-do list, especially since I should be getting both my state tax refund and my federal tax refund within three weeks of the day I filed.

Until last year, I used my parents’ accountant to file my taxes, and he opted to use the traditional pen-and-paper method rather than file electronically. In the spring of 2017, I was waiting for my tax refund to come via paper check in the mail for about two months before I realized it must have been stolen. It was, unfortunately, and I had to file a claim with the IRS.

Read more: Here’s when you can expect your tax refund to hit your bank account, according to the IRS

Last year, I took matters into my own hands. I used H&R Block’s free tax-filing service to file electronically and request direct deposit, the method recommended by the IRS if you want to get your refund sooner. The process was so easy that I used H&R Block again this year.

My financial situation isn’t too complicated: The only documents I needed were my 2018 W-2, my 2017 tax return (which H&R Block saved from last year), my Form 8889 for my health savings account, and my Form 1099-INT, the document you download from your bank to report any interest income from a savings account.

A few days before the IRS began accepting tax returns, I used H&R Block’s free tax calculator to estimate my tax refund. Knowing I would soon get a nice boost to my savings account pushed me to file as soon as possible.

Read more: Huge swaths of Americans should expect bigger tax refunds this year, and you can use H&R Block’s free calculator to estimate yours

Filing my tax return took an hour, and my refund will be deposited into 2 separate accounts

The process of filing your tax return consists of answering a bunch of questions and uploading your W-2 or manually imputing a few numbers from forms.

H&R Block made the entire process easy to navigate and even had helpful explainers positioned along the way to minimize errors and help me get the credits and deductions I’m eligible for.

I was answering questions I already knew the answers to (Do you have dependents? Did you have health insurance last year? Do you own property?) so it didn’t require too much thought. Honestly, it felt like filling out a college or job application, except I didn’t have to write an essay or cover letter – and I was rewarded with the promise of a payday at the end.

To be clear, I have income from only one job and earned a small amount of interest from a high-yield savings account. I don’t have freelance work or any other earned income sources, so my experience was as straightforward as it gets.

I submitted my state and federal returns feeling super accomplished and requested direct deposit for both refunds.

One of the cool things about requesting your refund via direct deposit is that you can choose up to three accounts and decide how much goes to each. I set up my state refund to go to my checking account to cover some basic necessities. My federal refund, which is bigger, will be deposited into my high-yield savings account that doubles as an emergency fund.

It took me exactly one hour to complete the process, and I didn’t have to spend a dime doing it. In turn, I’ll be rewarded with a refund that’s equal to about one paycheck. That’s a satisfying trade-off, if you ask me.