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When Will the IRS Start Processing Electronic Returns?


Content provided for general information. Talk to your advisor to learn about recent updates or other rules that may apply to your situation.

The IRS usually starts processing electronic returns around January 20th to January 25th. Here’s what you should know.

When does tax filing season open?

Tax filing season usually opens in mid to late January. Unlike the tax filing deadline, there’s no official date each year.

The IRS has to make sure it has all the tax forms updated and its computer systems are properly connected to tax filing software. They usually announce the opening date just a few days ahead of time.

What date does the IRS start processing electronic tax returns?

The opening date for tax filing season is usually the first official date the IRS will accept your electronic tax return.

If you use a large tax software company, you might even get a notification that the IRS accepted your tax return before tax season officially opens. The IRS and tax preparation software companies often use early filers to do final tests of their systems.

So if you want your tax refund as quickly as possible and are ready to file, don’t wait for tax season to officially open. File your tax return as soon as your tax software will let you.

When is the earliest you can get your tax refund?

It’s possible to get your tax refund within a week or two if you use electronic filing and request direct deposit. The IRS starts processing refunds as individual returns come in.

The IRS may hold your tax refund if

  • It detects math errors or discrepancies with your other tax documents
  • It sees signs of possible identity theft
  • It flagged your return for manual review
  • You claimed certain refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, that have an automatic hold until after February 15th

If you filed a paper return, the best case scenario is usually about four weeks for your return to arrive and get accepted plus another two to three weeks to get your refund. However, the IRS has had a lot of processing problems and refund delays for paper returns in recent years. You probably want to avoid filing by mail unless you absolutely have to.