As we look forward to 2022, we can mark significant dates on our calendars: birthdays, anniversaries and, of course, the deadlines the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets for filing and paying federal income taxes.
Bear in mind that we are filing taxes for income earned in 2021, even though we file those forms in 2022. To keep confusion to a minimum, tax experts refer to 2021 as the tax year and 2022 as the filing year. Most, but not all, of the deadlines in 2022 refer to tax year 2021.
When is Tax Day? It’s complicated
The deadline for filing 2021 federal income tax returns for most taxpayers is April 18. Taxpayers haven’t had to file on the traditional date, April 15, since the 2019 filing season.
In 2020 and 2021, the April 15 deadline got pushed back by the COVID-19 pandemic. And in some non-pandemic years, the deadline sometimes gets pushed back to the next business day because April 15 falls on a weekend.
2022 IRS Key Tax Dates
Jan. 14: IRS Free File service opens to prepare tax year 2021 returns
Jan. 18: Final estimated tax payment for 2021 due
Jan. 24: IRS begins processing 2021 tax returns
Jan. 24: Free MilTax service for military opens to prepare 2021 returns
April 18: First estimated tax payment for tax year 2022 due
April 18: Filing deadline for tax year 2021
June 15: Second estimated tax payment for 2022 due
Sept. 15: Third estimated tax payment for 2022 due
Oct. 17: Extended deadline to file 2021 tax return
Jan. 17, 2023: Fourth estimated tax payment for 2022 due
The filing deadline this year is Monday, April 18, because Washington, D.C., observes Emancipation Day on Friday, April 15. By law, the IRS is required to treat D.C. holidays as if they were national holidays for tax-filing purposes. Emancipation Day commemorates the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a measure to free enslaved people in D.C. (Adding to the complexity, the actual date of Emancipation Day is April 16, but since it falls on a Saturday this year the holiday is celebrated a day early.)
Making matters more complicated, taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts don’t have to file until April 19, because those states celebrate Patriots’ Day on April 18. The holiday marks the first battles of the American Revolution in 1775.
Some taxpayers affected by recent natural disasters get extra time to file. Victims of the January Colorado wildfires will have until May 16 to file their federal tax returns. The same goes for victims of the December tornados and flooding in Kentucky.
Don’t blow the deadline. The penalty for late filing is 5 percent of the amount due each month, and the penalty for failure to pay is 0.5 percent a month, and maxes out at 25 percent a year. (When both penalties are levied in the same month, the total penalty is 5 percent a month: 4.5 percent for failure to file and 0.5 percent for failure to pay.) Interest also accrues, at a current rate of 3 percent.
If you must file late, you can get an automatic extension by filing IRS Form 4868. The automatic extension typically gives you until Oct. 15 to file your return, but since Oct. 15 falls on a Saturday this year, the extended deadline is actually Oct. 17. However, an extension to file doesn’t grant an extension to pay. You must still pay any taxes owed by April 18 or face penalties for late payment. If you’re owed a refund and file late, the IRS won’t levy a penalty, but you won’t get your refund until you file. If you don’t claim a refund within three years, you’ll lose the money.
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When does tax season start?
The IRS takes a few weeks to get ready to process the millions of returns it receives during tax season. Last year, taxpayers sent more than 168 million individual returns to the IRS. However, IRS and Treasury officials say some returns have yet to be processed due to delays stemming from the pandemic.
The IRS will begin accepting and processing new returns on Jan. 24. The IRS says most taxpayers will get their refunds within 21 days of when they file electronically, barring any issues with processing their tax returns. Electronic filing, when linked with direct deposit, is the fastest way to get a refund. Last year’s average tax refund was more than $2,800.
Paying estimated taxes
The self-employed must pay estimated taxes every quarter. The last payment for the 2021 tax year is due on Jan. 18. The first payment for the 2022 tax year is due April 18, with other payments due June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 17, 2023.
John Waggoner covers all things financial for AARP, from budgeting and taxes to retirement planning and Social Security. Previously he was a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and USA Today and has written books on investing and the 2008 financial crisis. Waggoner's USA Today investing column ran in dozens of newspapers for 25 years.