Knowing when tax season 2021 starts can give you a head start on preparing to file your 2020 taxes and even give you a sense of when to expect your 2020 tax refund.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated January 15, 2021
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Tax season can easily be described as both the best of times and the worst of times. Some taxpayers may start preparing for a sizable tax refund—and others may come to the frightening realization that they'll owe money. Regardless of how tax season has gone in years past, though, tax season 2021 will roll around soon enough, and with it plenty of reminders that it's time to start filing your taxes. This year, tax season could be especially challenging as the IRS wraps up processing returns from the last tax season (which was extended to mid-2020) and distributing stimulus checks, all in the middle of a pandemic. If you have questions about your 2020 taxes, we have the answers.

During—or even before—tax season, you'll want to start collecting W-2s and other tax forms. If your tax situation is more complicated, you'll want to reach out to a tax professional to start gathering your materials so you can ensure everything will be ready in time for Tax Day. You may have to wait for an employer, bank, or financial institution to send some materials (such as your W-2), but you can start getting a sense of which forms you'll need to look out for—and if you need to take steps to lower your tax burden through actions such as putting money into a retirement account or making charitable donations.

When is tax season?

Tax season 2021 will begin February 12, 2021, the IRS announced January 15. This is the date when the IRS will begin processing returns. This year's tax season begins later than usual to allow the IRS to do critical programming and testing of the agency's systems.

Specific dates for tax season are typically officially announced early each year, though taxpayers can certainly expect tax season to start sometime in late January and last until April every year. (The coronavirus pandemic has shifted those dates in 2020 and 2021.) Tax season 2020 began January 27, 2020; on that date, the IRS began accepting and processing tax returns from 2019. Before late January, taxpayers should begin receiving (or collecting) tax forms for 2020 from employers, clients, and more, though they have until Tax Day to submit their returns.

Tax season 2021 - tax season start date, Tax Day date, and more
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When is Tax Day?

The last day to file taxes, also called Tax Day, is typically April 15. Tax Day 2021 will fall Thursday, April 15, 2021. In tax season 2020, Tax Day was supposed to fall on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, but because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus crisis, the tax deadline was pushed to July 15, 2020. This move gave people facing financial hardship, accountants struggling to file on time, and the newly remotely working IRS more time to file, process, and pay 2019 taxes. It remains to be seen if tax season 2021 will be extended, as well. Taxes can still be filed on Tax Day, but it is always best to avoid becoming a last-minute tax filer.

When is tax season 2020 - tax season 2020 start date, tax day date, and more
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When will I receive my refund?

The IRS claims to issue most refunds in fewer than 21 days, and hopefully that will hold true in the 2021 tax season, too. The IRS will begin receiving returns from early filers and filing systems February 12, and expects nine out of 10 taxpayers to receive their refund within 21 days if they if they file electronically with direct deposit and have no issues in their return.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis may extend the amount of time it takes to receive your refund. To reduce any potential refund delays, consider preparing tax returns—or working with a professional or tax filing software to prepare them—as early as possible. That way, as soon as the IRS begins accepting returns, yours can be submitted and your refund can be processed, hopefully within that 21-day window. The IRS also recommends that taxpayers file their returns electronically to reduce any potential errors and receive refunds more quickly. Use the commonly overlooked tax deductions checklist to check for any opportunities to increase your 2020 tax refund, and plan to be patient: That refund will arrive eventually.

When is Tax Day/Tax Season - tax filing in process