2021 tax filing season begins Feb. 12

Written on Jan 19, 2021

The IRS has set Feb. 12 as the day the nation's tax season will start and when the agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.

That start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the Dec. 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of economic impact payments and other benefits.

To speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups are starting to accept tax returns now, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting Feb. 12.

Last year's average tax refund was more than $2,500. More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the vast majority before the April 15 deadline.

Under the PATH Act, the IRS cannot issue a refund involving the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit before mid-February. The law provides this additional time to help the IRS stop fraudulent refunds and claims from being issued, including to identity thieves.

The IRS anticipates a first week of March refund for many EITC and ACTC taxpayers if they file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns. This would be the same experience for taxpayers if the filing season opened in late January. Taxpayers will need to check Where's My Refund for their personalized refund date.

Overall, the IRS anticipates nine of 10 taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit if there are no issues with their tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically. To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible.

There are several important dates taxpayers should keep in mind for this year's filing season:

  • Jan. 15: IRS Free File opens. Taxpayers can begin filing returns through Free File partners; tax returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting Feb. 12. Tax software companies also are accepting tax filings in advance.
  • Jan. 29: 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.
  • Feb. 12: IRS begins 2021 tax season. Individual tax returns begin being accepted and processing begins.
  • Feb. 22: Projected date for the IRS.gov Where's My Refund tool being updated for those claiming EITC and ACTC, also referred to as PATH Act returns.
  • First week of March: Tax refunds begin reaching those claiming EITC and ACTC (PATH Act returns) for those who file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns.
  • April 15: Deadline for filing 2020 tax returns.
  • Oct. 15: Deadline to file for those requesting an extension on their 2020 tax returns

Although tax seasons frequently begin in late January, there have been five instances since 2007 when filing seasons did not start for some taxpayers until February due to tax law changes made just before the start of tax time.

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