The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t want your money—yet.
In previous years, people could begin filing their taxes in late January. This year, the IRS has said, “No, thank you.”
The earliest you can do so for your 2020 taxes is February 12.
It’s not an early ode to Valentine’s Day, but rather due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, it’s all about the new round of stimulus checks, which the IRS is tasked with delivering.
“The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits,” the IRS explains on its website. “If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.”
The deadline remains April 15 and people who file for an extension still have until October 15.
Last year, the federal government pushed off the deadline for filing 2019 taxes to July 15, due to the pandemic.
“The IRS is under tremendous stress already, because of the extended tax season last year and administering checks,” explains Andy Phillips, director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block.
The tax-prep company said it usually looks to the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the start of the tax season, though this year it was already expected to begin later.
“What this means to people is it causes a bit of uncertainty in a year where there’s already some uncertainty,” he continues, citing examples of new circumstances in people’s lives from job losses to new gig or contractor jobs to supplement or replace lost incomes to increased investing. “Life changes almost always equal tax changes.”
Taxpayers using IRS Free File, which was opened earlier this month, can start to file through Free File partners, but the returns won’t be transmitted to the IRS until February 12, according to the IRS.
While millions of Americans file their federal income taxes at the last minute—think 11:59 p.m. on April 15—there is a group of early birds who like to get their paperwork in ASAP.
Reasons for getting a jump on tax-filings range from wanting to get your refund sooner to needing the forms for financial-aid applications to preventing identity theft, according to experts.
Suzanne Campbell, 52, an attorney living in Marlton, N.J., likes to pay her taxes early and feels put out by this year’s delay.
“It feels like a burden hanging over me,” she says. “You spend a week and a day getting it together. Then, there’s a great sense of accomplishment that the thing is done and filed.”
On the other hand, she understands that the rescheduling for February 12 is a way for the IRS to manage its workload.
“It’s mildly annoying, but I’m not unsympathetic,” Campbell says. “The Service has a lot on their plate with COVID relief and the Treasury getting checks out. I understand they’re trying to time and stage their work.”