As of January 23, the IRS filing season is officially open. Hooray! You can now start filing your returns for 2016 any time. In a recent update email sent out by the IRS, they provided useful information about what’s new this year and what you can expect to find as you begin this joyous task.
First, a bit of good news: Though April 15 is firmly fixed in your mind, this year you get a few extra days! Because the deadline falls on Saturday and the following Monday is a holiday, you have until April 18 to get the job done. Here are some of the other highlights from the email:
- Refund Delays: Taxpayers who are claiming the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit won’t see their refunds until after February 15, even if they file now. Starting this year, the IRS is required to hold refunds on these returns to help prevent fraud. With holidays, weekends and other factors, these refunds may not actually be available until the end of February.
- E-File and Free File: If you’re in a hurry to receive your refund, you’ll probably want to opt for e-filing rather than using a paper return. Coupled with direct deposit, this is the fastest way to get your return processed. Families with incomes at or below $64,000 can also choose to use one of the many free commercial software tools that the IRS provides for taxpayers.
- Refund Fraud from Identity Theft: With identity theft and associated fraud more of a threat than ever before, the IRS is adding new protections and adding more stringent security requirements to help protect taxpayers.
- ITIN Renewals: For those with ITINs, now is a good time to make sure your number hasn’t expired. Many timed out on January 1, and others are set to expire this year. No matter what the expiration date, if you haven’t used the number in three years, you’ll need to renew it before it can be used. Since that process can take 11 weeks, act now if you want to meet this year’s filing deadline and claim your refund.
- New AGI Requirement for E-Filers: To help protect taxpayers from criminals who try to claim their refunds, the IRS now requires new e-filers to provide their Adjusted Gross Income from the prior year’s return. The idea is that if you have that information as well as this year’s return, you’re more likely to be who you say you are.
- Free Tax Help: Older taxpayers and those with low to moderate incomes can turn to a network of community organizations dedicated to assisting in the filing process. Visit the site locator to find help near you.
- Filing Assistance: For those who need professional help filing their tax returns, the IRS has advice on picking the right provider. The agency also reminds everyone to wait for all necessary forms before filing, to prevent errors and delays.
- Online Tools: Still need help? Feel free to call the IRS with your questions. Better yet, check out their website to see if you can find the information you need. It’s a perfect way to pass the time while you’re on hold, anyway.
Now you’re ready to dig in and file those returns. If you’d like to read more details from the email, you can check it out here.