7 Things You Need To Know When Filing Your Tax Return This Year

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The IRS is coming off of two very irregular years thanks to back-to-back Tax Day postponements — and the agency is still working through enormous backlogs from 2021. This year, once again, the IRS has announced an unprecedented third straight delay. But this time, it’s much shorter than the months-long postponements the IRS was forced to accept the last two years — and in 2022, it has nothing to do with the pandemic.

Learn: Taxes 2022: Are Face Masks and Hand Sanitizer Deductible?
Explore: Tax Filing 2022: How To Set up ID.me for the IRS

The IRS has been clear that taxpayers should file early and be prepared for delays. The new year brought new stimulus, new checks, and new backlogs — and 2021 ended up being an especially complicated tax year. With the IRS under such heavy pressure and its phone lines jammed 24/7, it’s important that you’re up to date with everything you need to know about filing taxes for tax year 2021 if you want things to go smoothly.

1. There’s No Official Extension to Tax Season, But You Do Have a Few Extra Days

The April 15 deadline has been extended once again, but instead of a month or three like the last two years, your reprieve this year lasts only from April 15 to April 18, and only to get out of the way of Emancipation Day — it’s not pandemic related this year. You must file your taxes or apply for an extension by midnight — an extension will buy you until Oct. 15, although you still have to pay all taxes due by April 18. 

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Please note that Maine and Massachusetts residents can file one day even later on April 19 to make way for Patriot’s Day on April 18.

See: Why You Should Line Up a Tax Preparer Now — and What Paperwork You’ll Need

2. Roth IRA Contributions Extend Only Until April 15 — Not the 18th

Another important date to remember: The deadline for traditional or Roth IRA contributions. If you’ve put off contributing to your individual retirement account all of last year, you haven’t missed the boat. A special provision allows you to make your contribution for the previous year as late as the tax-filing deadline for the current calendar year. 

Despite the three-day extension, however, the IRS says that 2021 contributions are allowed only through the regular-year tax deadline of April 15.

3. File Early and Expect Little From the IRS

The IRS — long under-budgeted and understaffed — has still not dug out from its 2021 backlogs. Everything is taking longer and customer service is essentially nonexistent. If you try to call, you should more or less expect to be on hold through Tax Day. 

No one expects you to feel sympathy for the IRS, but do understand that it’s an organization under intense pressure and strict deadlines. If you want to get your refund as quickly as possible, there are a few steps you can take to hurry things along. The IRS asks that everyone filing their 2020 tax returns:

  • File as early as possible
  • File electronically
  • Sign up for direct deposit if they haven’t already
  • Don’t call-visit IRS.gov for the latest news and updates
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Look: 27 Best Strategies To Get the Most Out of Your 401(k)

4. Refund Timelines Vary

The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds within 21 days, although those who send in paper returns by mail or who aren’t signed up for direct deposit can expect long delays. Even some returns that are filed electronically with direct deposit can be delayed for a variety of reasons.

If 21 days pass before you receive your refund, use the IRS’ “Where’s My Refund?” tool to check your status.

As of 2017, the IRS is required to hold onto refunds until at least Feb. 15 for anyone claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. So if you’re claiming those credits, your entire refund will be held — not just the portion attributable to the tax credits.

5. Free Tax Help Comes With Income Limits

More than 70% of taxpayers qualify for assistance filing their taxes through Free File, a program that lets you prepare and send your returns with software from the IRS’s third-party partners. The income limit is an AGI of $73,000. 

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If your income is above $73,000, you can still qualify for Fillable Forms, which doesn’t offer guided preparation — you have to be able to prepare your own returns using only IRS publications, forms, and instructions. Both options will not only save you money, but you’re more likely to receive your refund sooner as well.

There is also the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which is limited to Americans over the age of 50 with incomes no greater than $58,000. A similar program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), pairs those who qualify with professional tax help.

If you don’t qualify for any of those IRS programs, you’re still not out of luck. You can take advantage of many other cheap and free tax filing software and services.

Learn: Roth vs. Traditional IRA: Which Retirement Plan Is Best for Me?

6. Your Tax Bracket Might Have Changed

There are still seven tax brackets with a top rate of 37%, but the income ranges have changed to adjust for inflation. Here are the updated brackets and rates for tax year 2021, which you’ll file by April 18, 2022.

Single Filers
Income Tax Rate
$0 to $9,950 10% 
$9,951 to $40,525 12%
$40,526 to $86,375 22%
$86,376 to $164,925 24%
$164,926 to $209,425 32%
$209,426 to $523,600 35%
$523,601 and up 37%
Married Filing Jointly
Income Tax Rate
$0 to $19,900 10% 
$19,901 to $81,050 12%
$81,051 to $172,750 22% 
$172,751 to $329,850 24% 
$329,851 to $418,850 32%
$418,851 to $628,300 35% 
$628,301 and up 37%
Married Filing Separately
Income Tax Rate
$0 to $9,950 10% 
$9,951 to $40,525 12% 
$40,526 to $86,375 22% 
$86,376 to $164,925 24% 
$164,926 to $209,425 32% 
$209,426 to $314,150 35%
$314,151 or more 37% 

7. You Might Be Eligible For a Rebate

The vast majority of Americans received a third stimulus payment in tax year 2021. If you didn’t receive your third Economic Impact Payment (EIP), or didn’t receive it in full, you might be eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit, which allows you to claim the rest at tax time. If you claim this credit on your 2021 tax return, you’ll receive the amount you’re owed either as an addition to your refund or as a credit to your tax bill. Any money you received in EIP funds does not count toward your income and is not taxable.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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