Although most taxpayers know that January is the first month they have to file their tax returns, they aren't exactly sure when that starts. Consequently, they ask “When can you start filing your taxes?”.

Whenever the calendar flips over to January, people wonder when they can file their tax returns and when they will receive a refund. There are a few factors to consider, such as when you receive important tax documents. Also, filing early does not necessarily mean you'll get a refund sooner.  

Update for 2022: The Internal Revenue Service has not yet announced the start date for the 2022 tax year. Last year the start date was February 12, 2021. On that date, the IRS began accepting and processing tax returns.

When can you file your taxes?

In early January, the IRS sends out a statement stating the first day for filing taxes. Tax season usually starts in mid to late January.

Each year, the first day to file taxes varies, but it generally falls during the same period in January.

Typically the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announces the date no later than the second week of January for the upcoming filing season, but they can change the date each year.

When is the earliest you can file taxes?

Because people are so eager to receive their tax refunds, it comes up all the time, “When can I file my federal tax return?”

The IRS will not accept federal tax returns until the tax season starts. The return can however be started with a pay stub, and completed when you get your W-2 form or other necessary documents. You can also hire a tax preparer for help. 

Once you receive your W-2s from your employers and have all the necessary information and documents, you can prepare and file your return. The deadline for employers to send W-2s and Forms 1099 is January 31, so you could receive yours as late as early February. 

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When Tax Filing and Processing Begins

You can start filing your taxes as soon as you have all the required paperwork. During the last week of January, the IRS usually begins accepting and processing tax returns.

However, in 2021, that date was extended to Feb. 15 so the IRS could prepare for the tax changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have all your income documents in order, most tax professionals and software programs can prepare your tax return immediately. They will then submit the tax return once the IRS begins accepting them.

The Tax Filing Deadline

The deadline for filing taxes is usually April 15. According to the IRS drafted instructions for the 2021 tax year, you have until April 18, 2022 to file a 2021 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR and pay any taxes due.

Filers who need more time to file can request a six-month extension from the IRS, allowing them to push the deadline back.

info icon Helpful Resource: How to File an Extension for Your Taxes

In a typical year, the extension expiration date is on Oct. 15, but in 2022 that date will fall on a Saturday. You must submit Form 4868 in lieu of a tax return by the April deadline to be eligible for the extra time.

When is the last day you can file taxes?

Your taxes must be filed by April 15 or the following business day if it falls on a weekend.

You'll have to electronically file or mail your taxes so that they are postmarked on the due date, or have your tax preparer do so. If you file for an extension in 2022, you will have until October 17.

Will the tax deadline be extended again?

This year's tax deadline is not likely to be extended beyond May 17. In the event that you don't have enough time, you can get a tax extension to extend your filing deadline - but not your payment deadline - to October 15.

When will you receive your tax refund?

According to IRS records, most returns are refunded in less than 21 days, but if you mail in a paper return, it can take up to six weeks.

You should also allow an additional 10 days if you are requesting a paper check for your refund rather than a direct deposit.

info icon Helpful Resource:  Where's My Tax Refund?: How long it takes to get your tax refund

The IRS Recommends Filing Your Taxes Early

The IRS suggests you file your tax return early to avoid delays with your refund. This will ensure you receive your refund as soon as possible.

The IRS estimates that 153 million tax returns will be filed this year, 80 percent of which will be filed using online tax software, so it's best to start filing as early as possible to avoid any disruptions or delays.

Why Filing Early Makes Sense

Despite the fact that many people file their tax returns on or about April 15, it is not necessary to wait until the last minute. A variety of reasons can justify filing an early tax return.

There are reasons to begin your tax preparation as soon as possible, even if you don't file early. You will have all of the time needed to collect the documents and information needed to file for all of your deductions. You will not be stuck scrambling for receipts at the last minute.

Your accountant will have more flexibility and can get started on your accounts more quickly. Filing early can also help you avoid identity theft.

Start Filing Your Taxes Now

The IRS opens the tax filing season in mid-January, but you don't have to wait until then to file your taxes.

If you file your tax return online, you'll be among the first to receive your refund. Your tax return will be securely stored and sent to the IRS as soon as they begin accepting tax returns.

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