Get out your calendars! The IRS has some tax-related dates for us.
The biggie is the start of the upcoming tax-filing season. That will happen on Jan. 23, 2017.
That Monday, the Internal Revenue Service says it will start processing our 2016 tax year returns.
Here are some details on that day, as well as three other important tax days/deadlines in 2017.
Jan. 23, 2017: In announcing the official start of the 2017 tax filing season, the IRS acknowledged that eager filers expecting refunds are likely to get their 1040s filled out well before next Jan. 23.
Many software companies and tax professionals will be accepting tax information and filling out electronic returns before the official start date. But the actual submission of those forms won't commence until Jan. 23, 2017, the day the IRS starts accepting electronic returns.
And don't think you can get a head start by reverting to an old-school paper return. The IRS says there's no advantage to filing paper tax returns in early January. It won't look at those throwback filings either until the fourth Monday of January 2017.
Feb. 15, 2017: If you are expecting a refund and claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your 2016 return, then you also need to mark Feb. 15, 2017 on your calendar.
That's the earliest day the IRS can issue your refund.
Don't start cursing the tax agency for this delay. It is part of the at the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH, Act that became law in late 2015.
Lawmakers added the mandated refund delay to give the IRS extra time to review EITC and ACTC claims. Basically, Congress is concerned that some of the refunds associated with these two credits are not correct.
The reason for Capitol Hill added attention is that both are refundable tax credits. Every tax provides a dollar-for-dollar offset of any tax you owe, possibly taking your tax bill down to zero.
But refundable credits, as their name indicates, mean you can get a tax refund even when you don't owe the U.S. Treasury any tax.
Lawmakers want to make sure the credit claims are legit, and the thinking is that by giving the IRS extra time to double check the claims, the refunds will only go to the filers that deserve them.
Basically, everyone is trying to ensure there's no tax refund fraud, either by taxpayers trying to game the credit claim or who just make mistakes or from tax identity thieves who are using stolen filer data and the credits to get bigger false refunds.
Now for another day and a bit more bad news about this mandated refund delay.
The IRS also noted in today's announcement that it will take several days for EITC/ACTC-related refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions. When you factor in weekends and the Feb. 20, 2017 President's Day holiday, many affected taxpayers may not have actual access to their refunds until the week of Feb. 27.
Sorry, folks, but again, it's not the IRS' fault. Tax crooks and cheats are why we can't have quicker refunds.
But on a happier note, the IRS says that it still expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. You can help with a quicker turnaround by e-filing (more on this later) and having your refund directly deposited.
April 18, 2017: OK, for all y'all who are a bit more laid back in your filing schedule, the IRS has good calendar news.
Our 2016 tax returns are not due until Tuesday, April 18, 2017, rather than the traditional April 15 deadline.
The reason is once again the convergence of a weekend and a federal holiday. Next year, April 15 is on a Saturday. This normally would move the tax filing deadline to the following Monday, April 17, 2017.
However, Emancipation Day, which is a legal holiday in the District of Columbia, will be observed next April 17. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation.
So that pushes the whole country's filing deadline to Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
Oct. 16, 2017: Finally, for all y'all who are like me and wait until the very last minute to send Uncle Sam your tax return, we get an extra day next year.
The six-month filing extension you get by submitting Form 4868 goes through Monday, Oct. 16 next year.
The reason for this one extra day to fill out your forms is that that usual Oct. 15 deadline is on Sunday in 2017. So the due date is pushed to the next business day, the following Monday.
Here's where I have to be a nag (the hubby is feeling your pain). Remember, the October due date applies only to your tax forms, not your tax bill.
You should pay a good estimate of any taxes you owe when you sent in your Form 4868. If you don't, interest and penalties will start adding up on April 19, 2017.
That message seems to have been received. The IRS says it's expecting more than 153 million e-filed individual tax returns next year.
E-filing is easy. You can have your tax pro do it for you. If you do your own taxes using tax software, that program will give you the option to e-file.
Free File on the way, too: If you meet the income criteria, you also can do your taxes and file them electronically at no cost using Free File. In 2017, the government/private partnership filing option will be open to anyone regardless of filing status who has adjusted gross income of $64,000 or less.
Since Free File utilizes e-filing, you can use it starting Jan. 23, 2017. But for the last couple of years, eligible taxpayers have had access to the online tax prep/e-filing system the Friday before the official start of the annual tax season.
If you're thinking Free File will work for you, then go ahead and mark Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, Jan. 13, 2017, (see update below) on your calendar, too.
UPDATE: Free File 2017 gets an even earlier start. The no-cost online tax preparation and free electronic filing option will be open to eligible taxpayers on Friday, Jan. 13. You qualify to use Free File if your adjusted gross income is $64,000 or less.
But do it in pencil in case the IRS decides against an early opening in 2017.
State deadlines changes, too: A final finally. Don't forget about your state taxes.
Most of the 43 states that collect income taxes from their residents follow the federal tax-filing calendar. That means that the later April and October deadlines in 2017 will apply in those jurisdictions, too.
But double check with your state's tax department (or here at the ol' blog) early next year), just to be sure.
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