The IRS started accepting tax returns on Monday, kicking off the 2024 tax season with a pledge to provide better service for taxpayers. For most tax filers, the top questions are whether they’ll see a bigger tax refund — and how long will it take the IRS to send them their money.

More than half of Americans plan to file their taxes early this year so they can get their hands on their refund as soon as possible, according to a new study from Intuit Credit Karma. The average refund check last year was just shy of $3,200 — an amount that typically represents a family’s biggest check of the year.

One of taxpayers’ biggest concerns is the timing of their tax refund, something that became a pain point during the pandemic when millions of refunds were delayed by IRS backlogs. But this tax season, the IRS is tapping billions in new funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, allowing it to hire more customer service reps and improve apps like its “Where’s My Refund?” service.

“The earlier you file, the earlier you get your money,” Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, told CBS MoneyWatch. “Frankly, there are other benefits to filing early.”

Chief among them: Locking up your data from fraudsters, he said. Some scammers try to file early in the tax season by fraudulently using taxpayers’ Social Security and work data, hoping to claim those refunds before the taxpayers themselves have had a chance to file, he noted.

In an interview with CBS News, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said the agency’s goal is to make sure the tax season goes smoothly for taxpayers.

“Our goal is accurate tax returns. We really don’t have a bias in terms of how much you owe or you don’t,” Werfel told CBS. “We’re excited when we have the ability to issue refunds.”

He added, “I believe this year the average refund again will be thousands of dollars.”

Here’s what to know about the 2024 tax season before you file.

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