As 2020 came to a close, lawmakers scrambled to pass last-minute relief to Americans struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The good news is that qualifying taxpayers are currently receiving a second round of stimulus checks.
The downside? Last-minute changes to our tax laws forced the Internal Revenue Service to push back the start date of tax filing season, which means your refund could be delayed, too.
Tax Filing Season Begins Feb. 12
Usually, the IRS begins processing tax returns in late January. This year, however, the agency pushed back the start of tax filing season to Friday, Feb. 12. Until that date, the IRS won’t accept or process any tax year 2020 returns.
The reason? Major changes to tax laws passed on Dec. 27, which allowed for another round of stimulus checks and other coronavirus aid, among many other things. That means the IRS needs extra time to update their systems to ensure returns are processed correctly.
“The February 12 start date will allow them time to do additional programming,” explained Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and tax expert for TurboTax.
If filing season opened without updates to system programming, there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers, the IRS stated in a Jan. 15 press release. The extra time also ensures that eligible taxpayers will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 return.
How To Get Your Tax Refund ASAP
The delayed start to tax season start is ultimately supposed to ensure that taxpayers receive any money owed to them as quickly as possible. But it also means that tax season will kick off with a backlog of returns ready to be processed.
Greene-Lewis noted that last tax season, close to 75% of taxpayers received a refund and the average amount was close to $3,000. If you’re owed a refund this year, you should prepare so that you can be one of the first in line when the IRS begins accepting tax returns.
Gather all your tax info now: Depending on your financial situation and family size, filing your taxes can involve quite a bit of paperwork. Be sure you have all your important tax documents and information such as W-2s, 1099, and Social Security numbers for dependents on hand. “Having the correct information when you sit down to do your taxes will also alleviate delays in processing your tax refund,” Greene-Lewis said.
Complete your tax return early: The IRS may not be accepting returns, but there’s nothing stopping you from completing your return ahead of time. If you finish your taxes early, your tax preparation service will hold it and send it through on Feb. 21.
File online: Greene-Lewis said that taxpayers should also go online and e-file with direct deposit. “E-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get your refund,” she said. “The IRS states that they will issue nine out of 10 refunds within 21 days of acceptance with e-file and direct deposit.”