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When Can You File Taxes? Get Ahead for a Stress-Free Tax Season

Why wait for the final deadline to file your taxes? Here’s how to set yourself up for success and less stress.

February 14, 2022

January marks the new year, but before you get too carried away with your fitness and healthy eating, don’t forget to tie up some of your unfinished business from the previous year. As soon as you hang up your brand-new calendar, it’s time to ask yourself when you can file taxes.

In this guide, we’ll let you know all the critical deadlines for taxpayers, fill you in on a few tips and clear up common causes of confusion so you can have the smoothest experience possible when you file your taxes — and maybe even save some money in the process. 

When can you file taxes?

The date you can start filing your income tax return is different every year, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announces the precise date in early January. According to the IRS,  you can begin filing your 2021 tax return as early as January 24, 2022.

In some cases, you might have eligibility to file even sooner. If your gross income was $73,000 or less in the tax year, you can use Free File starting on January 14, which offers free tax software for filing electronically to make the process as easy as possible.

When is the deadline for filing taxes?

For most taxpayers, the deadline for submitting your return is April 18, 2022. There are a few exceptions, such as those who:

  • Live in Maine or Massachusetts (who have until April 19)

  • File for an extension (who have until October 17)

But regardless of what your exact due date is, it’s best not to leave filing to the last minute.

You don’t have to pay your full tax bill on the day you file. Instead, you have until the final deadline, so getting everything sorted earlier means you’ll have more time to pay. It also means you’ll receive your tax refund sooner (more on this shortly).

One benefit of early filing many people don’t realize is that it minimizes the chances of falling victim to identity theft, which happens when someone uses your social security number to file a fraudulent tax return on your behalf. They might even get your tax refund. But if you can file your tax return before the fraudsters, you won’t have anything to worry about.

Finally, beginning the process earlier gives you more time to understand your unique tax situation, which is particularly important if you have dependents, self-employment income or anything else that could make your return more complex.

Unlike previous years, there aren’t any universal extended filing deadlines due to the pandemic or remote working. However, filers can still ask for an extension by filing a Form 4868, which extends the deadline in 2022 to October 17 (although you may still incur a late payment penalty for any taxes that aren’t paid by April 18).

How do you file taxes?

Now that you know the tax deadlines, let’s look at how to file your return. The IRS currently gives us two choices for how to pay your taxes:

  • Making a physical tax return by sending it through the mail

  • Filing a digital tax return (known as electronic filing or e-file)

To be precise, most people take the digital route — around 94%. Tax professionals also tend to go for e-filing, and it’s recommended since it usually results in you getting your refund quicker, as there’s less admin involved for the IRS.

Documents you need

Whichever option you choose for submitting your return, you’ll need plenty of information at hand to be able to complete the process.

You’ll need the following tax documents:

  • Photo ID

  • W-2 forms

  • 1099s

  • Savings and investment documents

  • Information about any dependents 

  • Unemployment benefit statements

  • Social Security or retirement income documents

  • Documents showing other income (e.g., rental properties, self–employment income, etc.)

  • Any other tax documents you may have received in the mail, such as a Health Insurance Marketplace Statement

It can also help to have social security cards, last year’s tax returns and information about childcare used.

If you’re self-employed (such as those working in the gig economy), you’ll need a whole other host of information. This includes home office expenses, business expenses like car mileage and records of any tax payment estimates you’ve made already.

As you can see, if you have a more complicated situation (like having a side hustle or lots of dependents), you may find yourself with lots of tax laws and rules you need to get your head around. As a result, working with a professional can give you greater peace of mind.


When will you get a tax refund?

Everyone’s favorite part of making a federal tax return is the moment your tax refund hits your bank account. It’s an “if” rather than a guarantee, but the odds are in your favor here, considering there were 125.3 million tax refunds in 2021 of the 240.2 million tax returns made that year.

But how long does it take to receive that sweet honey? The IRS advises that, in most cases, it should take less than 21 days. Some might receive it even quicker, in the case of filing taxes digitally.

However, if you claimed earned income tax credit (EITC), the process could take longer depending on when you filed since the IRS must wait until mid-February to pay you.

Do you need to file taxes?

Benjamin Franklin once said that only two things are certain in this world: death and taxes. This cheery quote aside, there are a few exemptions

If you’re single, under 65 and earned less than $12,550 last year, you’re in luck and won’t need to file. Similarly, retirees with only Social Security income don’t have to pay tax. However, if you have any doubts, you can use this interactive tax assistant to check.

It’s important to note that eligibility doesn’t depend strictly on factors like age. Whether you’re five years old or approaching your hundredth birthday, if you earned six figures, you can rest assured that the government will tax you on it.

Tips for filing taxes

Before you dive right into filing your taxes, we’ll leave you with a few tips to maximize the chances of you doing it correctly. 

In addition to filing your return as early as possible and opting for e-filing, we recommend the following steps:

  • Preparing your tax documents in advance, so you have everything ready

  • Checking for letters about child tax credit payments

  • Understanding which tax deductions you’re eligible for beforehand (such as medical, education and charitable contributions)

  • Choosing a direct deposit to receive your tax refund, so you get the money more quickly

  • Double-checking that you’ve not left any blanks and have filled in everything accurately before submitting

If you struggle with the process or you’re nervous, you could also check if you’re eligible for a free program offering additional help. The IRS offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.

Get ready for a great year ahead

No matter how far away your tax deadlines might seem, when it comes to tax preparation, there’s no time like the present. There’s no point in putting yourself through unnecessary worries, and being more organized might help you recognize deductions you could have missed or even get your tax refund quicker.

But even when all that is over, it’s wise not to put off thinking about personal finance for another year. There are many more aspects to consider, from budgeting to preparing for retirement. But we get it — staying on top of everything all on your own can be tough. Subscribe to Tally's† free newsletter for the best financial tips straight to your inbox throughout the year.

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