5 ways to protect your identity (& money!) during National Tax Security Awareness Week (& year-round!)
Tax season 2017 is safe! Federal government is funded through next April 28

Key 2017 tax dates: Jan. 23, Feb. 15, April 18 & Oct. 16

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.

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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.

Sorry, New Englanders hoping for even more time. The Patriots' Day holiday next year also is on Monday, April 17, so taxpayers in Massachusetts and Maine don't get any extra filing time in 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.

File electronically: Whatever deadline you're meeting when it comes to filing, the IRS recommends you do so electronically. It's faster and easier for the tax agency and for most taxpayers.

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.

You also might find these items of interest:

Comments

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Marie

Thank you so much! This is exactly what I had been trying to find. Much appreciated.

Kay Bell

It's pretty buried, but here's the text from https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ113/PLAW-114publ113.pdf

TITLE II—PROGRAM INTEGRITY
SEC. 201. MODIFICATION OF FILING DATES OF RETURNS AND STATEMENTS RELATING TO EMPLOYEE WAGE INFORMATION AND NONEMPLOYEE COMPENSATION TO IMPROVE COMPLIANCE.
...
26 USC 6402. (b) DATE FOR CERTAIN REFUNDS.—Section 6402 is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
‘‘(m) EARLIEST DATE FOR CERTAIN REFUNDS.—No credit or refund of an overpayment for a taxable year shall be made to a taxpayer before the 15th day of the second month following the close of such taxable year if a credit is allowed to such taxpayer under section 24 (by reason of subsection (d) thereof) or 32 for such taxable year.’’.

Marie

Thank you, you're correct about the silver lining, and the extra wait time isn't that bad really. It's just that something seems either wrong or at the very least fishy about them "holding" refunds until a specific date. Especially when I can't seem to find this specific date in the actual mandate or even mention of requiring the IRS to hold refunds until a certain time.
The IRS website states that they are required by this law to hold all refunds taking the EITC or ACTC until February 15, evendors if your return has been deemed accurate.
That's the part that bothers me. It puts me in mind of when someone writes a check to another person but asks them not to cash it until a specific date because the funds aren't there yet. Makes me wonder if our government maybe doesn't have the money yet to pay taxpayers their refunds and they're stalling with these 2 particular credits.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist AT ALL, there's just something here that makes my gut tingle. LOL

Kay Bell

I suspect a large part of PATH's refund delay by some members of Congress was to undercut the EITC and ACTC, which they see as too easy for nonqualified filers to game for refunds. Personally, I think the tax cheating here is exaggerated by the credits' opponents. Looking for a very dim silver lining, the delay is better than total elimination of these tax breaks.

Marie

Why the specific date of Feb 15 for those claiming the EITC and the ACTC?
I understand a tax law change can mean a delay in receiving refunds but for those returns that have been screened and determined accurate, why are these being "held" until that specific date?
I tried researching the PATH ACT mandate (section 208 is what's specifically called out on the IRS website) and I'm not seeing anything in regards to holding taxpayers refunds until this date.
the only explanation I've been able to find online is that it is to ensure accuracy of returns and to help prevent tax fraud which does not adress the reason refunds are being held until this date. The IRS has existed for well over 150 years, have they not been assuring refund claim accuracy this entire time? Surely this can't be something new.
While I appreciate the claim that this is an effort to protect taxpayers from identity theft and tax fraud, the fact that this is specifically aimed at Americans with the lowest income and greatest need for their refund warrants, in my opinion, not only a little more explanation but one that can be verified and that actually adds up.
It would be nice if the government could battle tax fraud by beginning with those who are NOT low income. Would be a refreshing change.

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