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TaxWatch: This year’s income tax filing season starts Jan. 24, and the IRS says it’s going to be a ‘frustrating’ one

Ready for your 2021 tax refund? Mark your calendars because January 24 is the date the Internal Revenue Service will start accepting and processing 2021 income tax returns.

The 2022 tax season will run from Monday, Jan. 24 to Monday, April 18, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service said Monday — but brace yourself for potentially sluggish service as the underfunded, understaffed and backlogged IRS juggles another filing season, Treasury officials said.

The 2022 filing season arrives as Capitol Hill negotiations over the Biden administration’s Build Back Better bill seem stalled. The bill would include adding $80 billion over a decade to the IRS budget for more staff and better technology to catch tax cheaters, as well as funding to improve customer service.

“In many areas, we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs. This is frustrating for taxpayers, for IRS employees and for me,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

The Build Back Better bill would have also renewed the enhanced child tax credit payments through 2022. But the future of these monthly payments are in question for 2022, so the 2021 income tax refunds hitting bank accounts could be a much-needed surge in cash for many parents. The average individual refund on 2020 returns was $2,815 as of early December, according to the IRS.

Without processing delays or errors in a taxpayer’s return, the IRS should be able to hit its traditional turnaround time, which gets refunds to people within 21 days from when the agency receives the return, Treasury officials said Monday.

“Planning for the nation’s filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop these past several months to prepare,” Rettig said. “The pandemic continues to create challenges, but the IRS reminds people there are important steps they can take to help ensure their tax return and refund don’t face processing delays.”

The best way to avoid a delay is to file electronically (instead of via a paper return) with direct deposit, IRS officials noted. It’s also crucial that numbers on the return are accurate to avoid snags and delays.

The IRS is sending out important letters on amounts it paid households last year for child tax credit payments and the third round of stimulus checks. It’s important to watch out for those letters, tax professionals say.

The IRS is still wading through a backlog of 2020 tax returns. As of Dec. 23, it still had 6 million unprocessed returns. Errors and “special handling” to address discrepancies in the returns are some of the reasons, the IRS said. Typically just ahead of a filing season, the IRS would have a backlog of unaddressed mail and documents below 1 million, Treasury officials said.

Taxpayers can request a filing extension through Oct. 17, the April 18 due date represents the final day to pay up on 2021 federal income taxes. After that point, the IRS can arrange installment plans. Taxpayers in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 19, 2022, to file their returns due to the Patriots’ Day holiday in those states.

Last year, tax season began on Feb. 12 and the original plan was to have the traditional April 15 deadline. Midway through the season, the IRS pushed the payment deadline to May 17, to accommodate frazzled taxpayers, tax preparers and the many twists from new tax provisions in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

There are currently no plans to extend the filing deadline this year, Treasury officials said Monday.

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