Now that a new year is underway, many taxpayers are working on figuring out whether or not they are eligible for a refund. Accountants are already busy working on taxes, but the IRS won’t be ready to accept filings until January 19, 2016. However, the tax deadline is extended to April 18, 2016 this year.
Time to File Your 2015 Tax Return
Tax season 2016 is the time for you to file your return for tax year 2015. If you haven’t already, it’s a good time to start going through your records to see where you stand, and see if you are missing paperwork.
You can expect to start receiving applicable forms, including W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, and other forms that describe your financial transactions throughout the past year. These items are supposed to be mailed out by January 31, and they can take a few days to arrive. Make a list of what you expect to receive, and if it doesn’t arrive by the middle February, follow up.
If you have all the paperwork you need early enough, you can prepare your return and file it on January 19, when the IRS starts accepting returns. The IRS makes it clear that mailing in a paper return before that date won’t give you an advantage over electronic filing. The IRS won’t begin processing those paper returns until the 19 — when it begins accepting e-filed documents.
The truth is that the IRS prefers e-filed returns to paper returns. With budget cuts affecting the IRS, paper returns only add to the burden. It requires more people to review the paper returns and enter the numbers into the system. With the IRS stretched thin, this extra work doesn’t make anyone happy — and it can increase the chance of human error.
Many providers of e-file will allow you to fill out your tax forms early, though. If you have what you need to complete your return, you can do so now. The company will hold onto you return for you, and then automatically file on January 19 when the official tax season opens.
It’s worth noting, though, that if you have an amended return from a previous year (tax year 2014 or earlier), you can file anytime. You don’t have to wait until the IRS starts accepting paperwork for tax year 2015.
Later Deadline for Tax Filing
Because the IRS is celebrating Emancipation Day on April 15, 2016, along with the rest of Washington, D.C., the final deadline has been moved to April 18, 2016, which is a Monday. This gives taxpayers an extra weekend to finish their paperwork. The only exceptions are in Maine and Massachusetts, which celebrate Patriots Day on April 18. To accommodate this celebration, residents of those states will have until April 19 to file their 2015 tax returns.
You can also file an extension if you don’t think that your tax return will be ready in time. Your extension can be for six months, making your tax return due in October. However, it’s important to note that just because you have longer to complete your paperwork it doesn’t let you off the hook if you owe money. You still have to pay your taxes in April, so if you file for an extension, estimate what you owe so you can make a payment.
Understanding the tax filing deadlines can help you better plan this tax season, whether you prepare your own taxes or have someone do it for you.