When Can You File Your Taxes This Year?

If you're an early bird when it comes to filing your tax return, you won't have to wait much longer before the IRS will accept your return.

picture of a calculator with "tax time" on the screen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The sooner you file your tax return, the sooner you'll receive any refund due. That's why some people like to file their return as early as possible. This year, the IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns on January 24, 2022. That's much earlier than last year, when you had to wait until mid-February to start filing returns.

If you're really itching to file your return as soon as possible and made $73,000 or less in 2021, you can use the IRS's Free File (opens in new tab) program to file your return as early as January 14. Participating providers will accept completed returns starting on that date and hold them until January 24, when they can be filed electronically with the IRS. Other tax preparation software companies and tax professionals may also accept or preparing tax returns before January 24 and hold them until the IRS itself begins accepting returns.

If you're more of a procrastinator when it come to taxes, most people have until April 18, 2022, to file your 2021 federal income tax return or request a filing extension. Normally the due date is April 15, but since that day is a holiday in Washington, D.C. (Emancipation Day), the deadline is pushed back to the next business day, which is April 18. However, if you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you get an extra day to file your federal return – until April 19 – because of the Patriots' Day holiday in those two states. Anyone requesting an extension will have until October 17, 2022, to file their 2021 federal income tax return (although payment of any tax owed is still due on the April 18 or 19 deadline).

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Who Must File a Tax Return?

Not everyone is required to file a tax return. If your income is under a certain amount (see table below), you aren't required to file a tax return because you won't owe any tax.

Federal Tax Return Filing Requirements (2021 Tax Year):

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Filing Status and Age at End of 2021Income Required to File 2021 Return
Single; Under 65$12,550
Single; 65 or Older$14,250
Married Filing Jointly; Both Spouses Under 65$25,100
Married Filing Jointly; One Spouse 65 or Older$26,450
Married Filing Jointly; Both Spouses 65 or Older$27,800
Married Filing Separately; Any Age$5
Head of Household; Under 65$18,800
Head of Household; 65 or Older$20,500
Qualifying Widow(er); Under 65$25,100
Qualifying Widow(er); 65 or Older$26,450

However, even if your income is below the applicable threshold, you still may want to file a 2021 tax return anyway. For example, you will need to file a return to claim a recovery rebate credit if you didn't get a third stimulus check or got less than what you should have received. There also may be other tax credits that are only available if you file a return, such as the:

If you receive monthly child tax credit payments last year, you'll have to reconcile those payments with the total credit that you're actually entitled to claim. (Some people may even be required to pay back all or some of the monthly payments if they received too much.)

When Will Tax Refunds Arrive?

If you have a federal tax refund coming, you could get your money back in as little as three weeks. In the past, the IRS has issued over 90% of refunds in less than 21 days. If you want to speed up the refund process, e-file your 2021 tax return and select the direct deposit payment method. That's the fastest way. Paper returns and checks slow things down considerable.

However, don't expect your refund before mid-February if you claim the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit. By law, refunds for returns claiming these credits must be delayed. This applies to the entire refund, not just the portion associated with the credits.

Rocky Mengle
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

Rocky is a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, he worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky has a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.