Facing the prospect of a difficult tax filing season, the Internal Revenue Service says it will begin processing 2021 income tax returns on January 24 -- 17 days earlier than last year’s filing season began.
Fearing the Omicron variant might sideline employees and cause delays in processing returns, the agency Tuesday said the earlier-than-usual start-date for individual tax return filers “allows the IRS time to perform programming and testing that is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly.”
“The pandemic continues to create challenges,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a press release. "In many areas, we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs.”
More than 240.2 million Federal tax returns and supplemental documents were processed in the year ended September 30, 2020, according to the IRS. Almost 122 million refunds were issued, amounting to more than $736.2 billion. Yet the IRS is “in a hole,” according to a story in The Wall Street Journal on Jan 10, which is consistent with a report July 1, 2021 in The New York Times of an IRS backlog in processing 35 million returns.
In addition to beginning the filing season earlier, the April 15 deadline is delayed this year until April 18 for Emancipation Day, commemorating April 16, 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves. While Emancipation Day is not a federal holiday, it is a holiday in District of Columbia and federal offices are closed.
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