Here's when you can start filing your 2021 federal tax returns
(CNN) -- The IRS said Monday it would start accepting 2021 federal tax returns on Monday, January 24.
The tax filing deadline this year is Monday, April 18. That's the day by which you must have filed your 2021 individual return and paid any remaining federal income taxes owed for last year.
Normally, the tax-filing deadline is April 15, but this year that is when Emancipation Day will be observed in Washington, DC. In two states - Massachusetts and Maine -- the federal filing deadline will be April 19 due to the observation of Patriots Day on the 18th.
The federal filing deadline will be extended for anyone who files for an automatic 6-month extension. (Note: you will only be granted an extension to file your return. But you will not be given an extension to pay what you owe.)
In addition, the tax filing and payment deadlines will be extended for anyone living in counties declared federal disaster areas due to recent natural calamities.
These include tornado and storm victims in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as wildfire victims in Colorado. They will have until May 16, 2022, to file various individual and business tax returns and make their payments. (This IRS page offers a complete listing of who is granted disaster-related tax extensions.)
Those affected taxpayers also will have until May 16 to make 2021 IRA contributions. Everyone else must make their 2021 IRA contributions no later than April 18.
Don't be surprised by delays
While every tax season is busy for the IRS, pandemic-induced backlogs from the past two years coupled with limited funding will make the current tax season even more so.
Treasury officials said in a briefing call Monday that at the start of a normal tax season, the IRS might have 1 million returns backlogged, but the number this year is "several times more."
Last week, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig noted that return processing and tax assistance delays arose as the agency was administering several Covid-19 relief efforts passed by Congress. Those included issuing three rounds of Economic Impact Payments, creating a system to send out advance monthly payments of the Child Tax Credit and making changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit.
"Despite valiant efforts by our employees handling a large portfolio and new responsibilities, we still are working through tax returns filed in 2021 and we are unable to answer an unprecedented number of telephone calls. Simply put, in many areas we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs," Rettig said.
One example: Last year, the agency was unable to answer more than two-thirds of the calls it received. That's why tax filers are encouraged to first use the online tools provided on IRS.gov to get answers to their questions before reaching out to the agency directly.
How to ensure you get your refund as quickly as possible
The majority of tax filers are typically owed a refund.
Treasury officials noted that the IRS is likely to deliver your refund within 21 days of receipt -- its typical turnaround time -- but only if you fill out your return accurately and completely, file it electronically and opt to have your refund delivered through direct deposit.
For anyone expecting a refund due to the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, the IRS is prohibited by law from issuing it before mid-February in order to give the agency time to stop fraudulent refunds from going out. But affected filers may still file their returns beginning on January 24.
Despite the anticipated frustrations, Rettig noted that the agency is continuing 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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