CNN

The 2021 tax filing season has begun. Here’s what you need to know

Jan 24, 2022, 9:16 PM
The federal tax filing season has begun. And it's going to be tough sledding for the IRS -- and for...
The federal tax filing season has begun. And it's going to be tough sledding for the IRS -- and for some tax filers -- given the millions of returns from last year that still have to be processed, staffing issues due to Covid-19 and a lack of needed funding for the agency. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

(CNN) — The federal tax filing season has begun. And it’s going to be tough sledding for the IRS — and for some tax filers — given the millions of returns from last year that still have to be processed, staffing issues due to Covid-19 and a lack of needed funding for the agency.

Despite that, there are still ways to help ensure your tax filing experience is hassle-free and you get your refund within the typical 21-day window after the IRS accepts your return.

This requires three critical steps on your part. “File electronically. File accurately. And request direct deposit for your refund,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said Monday in a press call. “If there’s a problem with your return it can create an extensive delay.”

As you aim for accuracy, keep in mind the many tax-related variables from last year — such as receiving a third stimulus payment or advanced payments of the expanded child tax credit.

Here’s what you need to know about filing your 2021 taxes this year:

The filing deadline

The federal 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 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 ArkansasIllinoisKentucky 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.

The IRS has 6 million individual returns from last year that still need to be processed, or 11 million in total including unprocessed business and other returns.

The 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.

One example: Last year, the agency was unable to answer more than two-thirds of the calls it received.

This year is likely to be just as frustrating. 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.

“Expect phones lines to be jammed up for the forseeable future,” Rettig said.

Be on the lookout for IRS letters

If you received advanced payments last year for the recently expanded child tax credit or you got a third stimulus payment (a.k.a. Economic Impact Payment) last spring from the IRS, be on the lookout for a letter pertaining to each from the agency.

It made advanced monthly payments on the child tax credit from July through December. So you may already have received about half of your credit and can claim the other half on your 2021 return.

To help with that calculation, the IRS will send you Letter 6419 for the child tax credit advanced payments, which you should use to reconcile how much more you are due on your return.

Similarly, you will receive Letter 6475 for the stimulus payment detailing the amount you’ve received and can use that to reconcile the amount you are due on your return.

If you have questions or concerns about the amount reported in your letter, create or check your existing online tax account at IRS.gov, which should have the latest number on record with the agency, Corbin said.

How to ensure you get your refund as quickly as possible

The majority of tax filers are typically owed a refund.

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.

Corbin noted that due to holidays, weekends and bank processing time, filers expecting refunds due to the EITC and ACTC should expect to see them starting in early March.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

An illustration shows NASA's DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency's LICIACube before the co...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

NASA’s DART mission successfully slams into an asteroid

Deemed as a success, a NASA spacecraft intentionally slammed into an asteroid in the first attempt of planetary defense.
22 hours ago
Hurricane Ian could be the storm that the west coast of Florida has always feared -- especially Tam...
Jennifer Gray, CNN Meteorologist

Here’s why meteorologists say Ian’s exact path is still uncertain

Hurricane Ian could be the storm that the west coast of Florida has always dreaded.
22 hours ago
Shoppers wait in line outside a retail warehouse as people rush to prepare for Tropical Storm Ian, ...
Holly Yan and Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Hurricane Ian could be ‘something that we haven’t seen in our lifetime,’ Tampa forecaster says

While Ian is forecast to become a "major hurricane" based on wind speeds, storm surges can be even deadlier than the winds, said Michael Brennan, acting deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
2 days ago
In this photo provided by Wreckhouse Press a home fights against high winds caused by post Tropical...
Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Hundreds of thousands without power in Atlantic Canada after Fiona rumbles north

Poor weather conditions have hampered power restoration efforts, Nova Scotia Power President and CEO Peter Gregg said Saturday. More than 900 power technicians were on their way to the area, but some customers may experience power outages for several days, he said.
2 days ago
Tropical Storm Ian...
Haley Brink, Dakin Andone and Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Florida officials urge residents to prepare for Tropical Storm Ian, forecast to be a major hurricane before it reaches Cuba

Floridians are bracing for Tropical Storm Ian, which is expected to rapidly intensify and become a hurricane on Monday before hitting western Cuba.
3 days ago
First Lady Utah vaccine mandate...
Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

Biden touts climate package at Global Citizen Festival

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden addressed the Global Citizen Festival early Sunday, underscoring the administration's commitment to climate action
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
The 2021 tax filing season has begun. Here’s what you need to know