It’s official: The Internal Revenue Service says it will start accepting 2021 tax year returns on January 24, kicking off tax season.
The somewhat late start for individual tax filers allows the agency the extra time needed to get their computer systems programmed and tested. The IRS says extra programming is needed to cover those taxpayers who can claim the Child Tax Credit or the Recovery Rebate Credit after receiving advance portions of the credit earlier in the year.
"Planning for the nation's filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop these past several months to prepare," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
"The pandemic continues to create challenges, but the IRS reminds people there are important steps they can take to help ensure their tax return and refund don't face processing delays. Filing electronically with direct deposit and avoiding a paper tax return is more important than ever this year. And we urge extra attention to those who received an Economic Impact Payment or an advance Child Tax Credit last year. People should make sure they report the correct amount on their tax return to avoid delays."
In order to get their returns to the IRS by the April 18 tax deadline, Rettig and other federal tax officials are encouraging taxpayers to have their tax documents needed for filing in hand so they can file a complete and accurate return.
Just having an accurate return, the IRS stresses, can help avoid processing and refunding delays—as well as later IRS notices.
An accurate return is especially valuable to taxpayers who got advance payments of the Child Tax Credit or Economic Impact Payments from the American Rescue Plan in 2021. These recipients will need the amounts of their payments to include on their tax returns to verify their remaining credit amounts.
Some filers may not be required to file, yet need to file a return for 2021 in order to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit and get the tax credit from the 2021 stimulus payments or reconcile advance payments of the Child Tax Credit. They could also be eligible for other credits.
The filing deadline is April 18
This year’s deadline for filing and paying any tax due is Monday, April 18. Traditionally the deadline is April 14, but this year the Washington, D.C. holiday for Emancipation Day has bumped the IRS deadline day to the 18th.
Taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts, however, have April 19 as their deadline, since their Patriots’ Day holiday interfered.
No matter where they live, though, taxpayers who request an extension this tax season have a final filing deadline of Monday, Oct. 17, 2022.
IRS is still processing returns from 2021
Commissioner Rettig says his agency is still fighting the battles of the pandemic, with short staff affecting processing of last year’s tax returns and fielding a record number of phone calls.
"In many areas, we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs. This is frustrating for taxpayers, for IRS employees and for me," Rettig said.
"IRS employees want to do more, and we will continue in 2022 to do everything possible with the resources available to us. And we will continue to look for ways to improve. We want to deliver as much as possible while also protecting the health and safety of our employees and taxpayers. Additional resources are essential to helping our employees do more in 2022 – and beyond."
The IRS says it’s hard at work to reduce the backlog of prior-year individual that haven’t been completely processed. It does say that all paper and electronic individual 2020 returns without issues have been processed if the return was submitted before the April deadline. There is some good news, in that taxpayers generally won’t need their 2020 return to be processed before they send in their 2021 returns. They can file when ready.
The men and women of the IRS won’t have much time to catch their breath, however. This tax season, some 160 million individual tax returns are expected for the 2021 tax year, and most of those are expected before the traditional April deadline.
Even with an increase in volume, the IRS expects most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file, provided they file electronically, choose direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax return.
Here are some dates to remember
Here are several important dates taxpayers need to heed during this year’s tax season:
- January 14: IRS Free File opens. Taxpayers can begin filing returns through IRS Free File partners; tax returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting January 24. Tax software companies also are accepting tax filings in advance.
- January 18: Due date for tax year 2021 fourth quarter estimated tax payment.
- January 24: IRS begins 2022 tax season. Individual 2021 tax returns begin being accepted and processing begins
- January 28: Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day to raise awareness of valuable tax credits available to many people – including the option to use prior-year income to qualify.
- April 18: Due date to file 2021 tax return or request extension and pay tax owed due to Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., even for those who live outside the area.
- April 19: Due date to file 2021 tax return or request extension and pay tax owed for those who live in MA or ME due to Patriots' Day holiday
- October 17: Due date to file for those requesting an extension on their 2021 tax returns
Finally, here are some easy steps that can really ease stress levels this tax season:
Organize and gather up 2021 tax records, including Social Security numbers, Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), Adoption Taxpayer Identification Numbers, and this year’s Identity Protection Personal Identification Numbers, valid for 2022.
Check IRS.gov for the latest tax information - including the latest on reconciling advance payments of the Child Tax Credit or claiming a Recovery Rebate Credit for missing stimulus payments. Remember: There’s no need to call the IRS.
Set up or log in at IRS.gov/account and access personal tax account information, including the balance, payments, tax records and adjusted gross income.
Make final estimated tax payments for the 2021 tax year by Tuesday, January 18, in order to avoid a tax bill and possible penalties.
Set up a bank account, prepaid debit card or mobile app to use direct deposit. Use their routing and account numbers on the tax return to set up the transfer.
File a complete and accurate return electronically once filing begins and choose direct deposit for the fastest refund.