IRS delays start of 2021 tax filing season to Feb. 12

A view of an IRS 1040 Tax Form on a Laptop computer screen being prepared for an electronic filing.

The Internal Revenue Service will delay the start of tax filing season until Feb. 12, 2021, which pushes the date when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.

On Friday, the agency said the start date for individual tax return filers will allow the IRS time to do additional programming and testing following the Dec. 27 tax law changes, which provided a second round of COVID-19 stimulus relief checks and other benefits.

"This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly," the IRS wrote. "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."

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In order to speed up refunds during the pandemic, the IRS is urging taxpayers to file electronically and opt to receive refunds via direct deposit."

Planning for the nation's filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop to prepare for this as well as delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

"Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation's most important filing seasons ever. This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible," Rettig said.

Erin M. Collins, who was sworn in as the national taxpayer advocate in late March, noted in an annual report that as of November there were still 7.1 million unprocessed individual returns from last tax season, as well as 2.3 million unprocessed business returns. Some of those returns dated back to April 15, FOX Business reported.

"The challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue through the 2021 fi­ling season and possibly for months longer, affecting both the IRS and taxpayers," Collins wrote in the report to lawmakers.

According to FOX Business, the IRS has faced several challenges this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the agency to operate with limited staffing.

April 15 remains the deadline for filing 2020 tax returns.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.