This tax season will be ‘one of the nation’s most important’ ever, the IRS says. Here are the key dates to know.

This tax season will be ‘one of the nation’s most important’ ever, the IRS says. Here are the key dates to know.

At a time when millions of people are strapped for money and counting on their income tax refund or a stimulus check, they’ll have to wait a little longer before they can file their taxes.

Feb. 12 marks the first date the Internal Revenue Service will start accepting and processing returns.  That’s is a little later than the usual start. Tax season started Jan. 27 last year.

April 15 is the deadline to file your taxes, unless you
apply for an extension. (An extension lets you submit your return by Oct. 15,
but you still need to pay any sum owed by April 15 unless you arrange a
repayment plan.)

Last year, the Treasury Department pushed the filing deadline to July 15 to avoid subjecting taxpayers to an even tighter early spring cash crunch if they owed.

The IRS said Friday that the later start to this tax season will give it some breathing room to test systems and avoid delays when issuing refunds.

The tax collection agency is coming off a year when it had to temporarily close down offices because of the pandemic, distribute one round of stimulus checks and start cutting another round. Back in early December, the IRS still had to process 1 million tax returns that had been mailed in during last tax season.

For quickest turnaround times, people should file their taxes electronically with direct deposit information, the IRS said.  

In 2020 filings, people can get their refund for overpayment of income taxes, as always. The average refund last season was $2,535. But taxpayers will also have an opportunity to claim stimulus check money that they may have missed in 2020.

By Feb. 14 last year, the IRS had already processed 38.3 million returns and issued 18.1 million refunds, filing statistics show.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig knows there’s a lot riding
on tax returns this year.

“Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation’s most
important filing seasons ever,” he said in a statement. “This start date will
ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure
they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly
as possible.”

While the filing start date is later, the IRS Free File portal opened up Jan. 15. The service lets taxpayers making less than $72,000  file their taxes free of charge through partnering private tax preparation companies. They’ll start accepting returns Jan. 15 and begin beaming them over to the IRS on Feb. 12.

Here’s the link.

For people who are anxious to get their refund, here are some other key dates this season:

  • Feb. 22 is the projected date when the IRS refund tracker will start showing information on refund status for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and the additional child tax credit. (By law, the IRS can’t release these refunds until the middle of the month because of a review period to spot bogus claims and potential identity theft.)
  • The first week in March is when refunds claiming these credits will start hitting accounts.

Both credits are critical income sources for low- and moderate-income families, and there are special “look back” provisions this year that will let families include their 2019 returns to maximize payouts from the credit.

Rep. Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts chairing the Ways and Means Committee, said he’s “disappointed that this year’s filing season will begin later than usual,” but he knows the IRS “has faced extraordinary challenges throughout the COVID crisis. It’s a relief to know that despite contending with the distribution of two rounds of economic impact payments, facility closures, and other disruptions, the agency will be able to begin accepting returns within the next month.”

Since 2007, there are have five years when the IRS pushed the tax season start date into February, according to the agency.

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