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Key IRS tax deadlines that Americans need to know Tax season kicks off on Jan. 24

The Internal Revenue Service will kick off the 2022 tax season this month, although it's already warning taxpayers to brace for delays as the agency wrestles with a massive pileup of unprocessed returns accrued during the pandemic.

In a report to Congress this week, the National Taxpayer Advocate estimated the IRS had a backlog of more than 8.6 million unprocessed individual income tax returns and 2.8 million business returns as of mid-December due to the pandemic and other related disruptions. It also had close to 5 million pieces of unanswered mail.

IRS TAX-FILING SEASON TO KICK OFF ON JAN. 24

By comparison, the IRS usually enters the tax-filing season with fewer than 1 million remaining items to address.

There are several reasons for the delays. The IRS was grappling with office closures as well as the Herculean task of delivering millions of stimulus checks in 2020 and 2021, all while trying to adapt to major changes to the tax code in the middle of the filing season. The agency is also grossly understaffed; it has 20,000 fewer staff than it did in 2010, and its budget is roughly $11.4 billion – 20% less than it was in 2010, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

On top of that, more than 20% of the IRS customer service workforce has been unable to work for pandemic-related health reasons over the last two years.

Here are the key dates taxpayers need to know in order to prepare for this tax season:

Jan. 14

The IRS Free File program opened on Jan. 14 to taxpayers who made $73,000 or less in 2021. Individuals can use the program to file their taxes electronically for free using software provided by commercial tax filing companies.

About 70% of people filing taxes in the U.S. – or about 100 million Americans – qualify for the free program offered by the IRS,...

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