COLUMBIA, Mo. – The saying goes, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Early filing of income tax returns can do the same for many, says University of Missouri Extension personal finance specialist Andrew Zumwalt.

Missourians receive an average income tax refund of $2,612, according to IRS data. That is money that you’re not receiving interest on, says Zumwalt, so file early, claim it and put it to good use.

When money is direct-deposited into your bank account, it can arrive in as little as seven days.

Early filers can get a head start on saving and paying down debt. The sooner you pay down bills, the more you will save on interest charges. Money in hand or in an emergency fund can save you from going further in debt, Zumwalt says.

There are several other reasons to file early, Zumwalt says. If you find that you owe additional fees and are not entitled to a refund, you have more time to plan on how you will pay this prior to the filing deadline.

Parents and students can use the tax forms to estimate income for student financial aid.

You also can fund an individual retirement account for 2015 before the filing deadline, which falls on April 18 this year. Contribution limits are $5,500 for those under 50 and $6,500 for those 50 and older.

Zumwalt says MU Extension Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are open now statewide. VITA volunteers provide free income tax filing services to qualified individuals. For information about the VITA tax program in Missouri, go to

MU Extension also offers numerous financial education workshops throughout the year. For information on resources in your county, go to

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