If you're thinking about filing your taxes early, you're not alone.  The first date you can send in your tax return is coming up next week, and with holiday bills to pay off, more people than ever will be jumping on it.  If you file next week, you can expect your refund in early February.

If you're aiming for the earliest possible day that you can receive a refund, February 7th seems to be the best guess among financial analysts.

The IRS announced they'll start accepting tax returns next Monday, January 27th, and most refunds will be issued within 21 days.  Forbes' educated guess is that those who file on January 27th would receive a direct deposit on February 7th, and a check by mail around February 14th.

The IRS usually issues paper refunds on Fridays, and Forbes says the electronic refunds are issued every day of the week.  No matter when you file, you can expect your refund to arrive two to three weeks after the IRS accepts your return.

There are some things that can delay your return. If you claim the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and the additional child tax credit (ACTC), the IRS has to wait until mid-February on those.  February 28th would be the earliest refund date in those cases.

Last year, refunds were delayed on over 1 million tax returns because of worries about fraud and identity theft.  CNBC said there's a thing called "Filter X" that flags some tax returns and holds them up until the IRS is sure there's no fraud involved, and sometimes that means there's a delay of up to 40 days.  They might request more documents from you to prove the numbers are yours.

Once you get through the hard parts, that big fat refund is all yours.  Whew!  Or at least we hope it's a fat one.  The average refund last year was almost $2800, and it could be slightly higher this year since everyone has had time to digest the new tax laws and make some adjustments in their favor.  Popular things to do with tax refunds are pay down debt, save, and of course, spend.

If you're a procrastinator, you've got plenty of time to get it done.  The deadline to file a return is April 15th. You can check your refund status HERE.