IRS pushes tax-filing season to Feb. 12, free filing opens today

The IRS needs additional time to test its systems

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced Friday that the nation's 2020 tax filing season will begin in February, a few weeks later than last year's January open. However, its Free File program is now open for taxpayers.

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The federal agency, which wants to make sure there are no issues for taxpayers, will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns on Feb. 12.

The extra weeks will give the IRS more time "to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems after tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits", the agency said, noting that this is "critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly."

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If the correct programming isn't in place, it could result in a delay in refunds for filers amid a year when an increasing number of consumers have found themselves cash-strapped due to the virus-fueled economic recession.

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"These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return," the IRS said.

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In order to speed up the process of issuing refunds, the agency is encouraging taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit "as soon as they have the information they need."

However, effective immediately, taxpayers can begin filing their 2020 returns with tax software companies, including the IRS Free File partners, which have already started to accept tax returns. Those returns will be sent to the IRS starting Feb.12.

IRS HAS YET TO PROCESS MILLIONS OF INDIVIDUAL, BUSINESS TAX RETURNS FROM LAST FILING SEASON

"Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation's most important filing seasons ever," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. "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."

The IRS estimates that more than 150 million tax returns will be filed this year.