Filing taxes can be a headache all in itself, but the pandemic has exacerbated many issues with the overall system. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) often faces some sort of backlog every year, the agency closed last year’s tax season with an unprecedented 35 million unprocessed returns due to budget cuts and staff shortages amid the COVID pandemic, per The Washington Post. In order to prevent this type of issue from affecting taxpayers this year, the IRS has just issued new guidelines, advising all taxpayers to do one thing soon. Read on to find out what the agency is recommending you do, starting in just a few weeks.
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The U.S. tax season will start on Jan. 24, which is “when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2021 tax year returns,” the IRS said in a Jan. 10 announcement. This is more than two weeks earlier than the agency started the filing season last year, according to USA Today.
“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,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. “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.”
In order to prevent delays and help the tax season flow more smoothly, one of the steps you can take is filing your returns as early as possible in accordance with the Jan. 24 start date. The IRS free filing program will open on Jan. 14, allowing taxpayers the opportunity to begin filing returns through the agencies’ partners earlier in order for them to be transmitted to the IRS starting Jan. 24. “It’s never too early to get ready for the tax-filing season ahead,” the agency says.
And getting ahead will help you navigate another troubling year ahead for the IRS. Treasury Department officials warned on Jan. 10 that the IRS will still be facing “enormous challenges” during this year’s tax filing season, which will likely make it another “frustrating season” for taxpayers, per The Washington Post.
“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.”
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In both 2020 and 2021, the IRS ended up extending the tax deadline into May in order to give taxpayers more time to file their tax returns amid the pandemic. But the agency has no plans to give most people extensions this year, according to The Washington Post. Instead, the tax deadline is April 18 for almost all taxpayers.
Prior to the pandemic, the deadline was usually April 15. But it has moved three days later this year in order to accommodate Emancipation Day on April 16, which is a holiday recognized in Washington D.C. One exception to the overall tax deadline is residents of Maine or Massachusetts, who will have until April 19 to file their returns due to the Patriots’ Day holiday in those states.
Alongside filing earlier, the IRS is once again pushing electronic tax returns. According to the agency, filing paper returns instead increases your risk of experiencing delays in processing. “The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds—as well having all the information they need to file an accurate return to avoid delays,” the agency says.
Given that that there are no issues with your tax return such as errors or missing information, the IRS “anticipates most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically if they choose direct deposit.”