How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Filing taxes
Andriy Onufriyenko/Moment Mobile/Getty Images
  • "How soon can I file my tax return?"
  • "What's the earliest I can file?"
  • "When does tax season start?"

These are common questions tax accountants hear at the beginning of the year.

Generally speaking, someone can file a tax return as soon as one has all the relevant information and documents needed to prepare an accurate tax return.

On a practical level, however, the Internal Revenue Service will begin processing tax returns for the year 2015 on January 19, 2016.

That's the day the IRS plans to begin accepting electronically filed tax returns and processing paper returns mailed to the agency. Any tax returns mailed in early January will sit in the queue, and the IRS will process them starting January 19th.

"There is no advantage to people filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for e-file to begin," the IRS wrote in its announcement about its plans for the 2016 filing season (IR-2015-139).

If you are thinking of filing your tax return early, here are some important things to bear in mind.

You'll still need to file an accurate return, and that means you'll need documentation. You'll need any W-2 forms, 1099 forms, information about business or rental income, and data about your deductions. If you don't have that documentation yet, it's best to wait so you can make sure your tax return is complete.

In particular, wait for your W-2 forms to arrive before filing your tax return.

"Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules," the IRS warns (FS-2014-11). The reason: there is information found on the Form W-2 that is not found on the last pay stub of the year.

This year, the deadline to file and to pay 2015 personal tax returns is April 18, 2016.

People living in Maine and Massachusetts, however, have a deadline of April 19, 2016, due to Patriots' Day.

If you need additional time to prepare and file your tax return, you can request a  six-month extension from the IRS. This would push your filing deadline to October 17, 2016. Payments of tax for the year 2015 are still due by the April 18th (or 19th) deadline. The IRS charges interest and sometimes late payment penalties on payments made after the April 18th deadline.

Continue Reading...