The 2022 tax season begins next week, but taxpayers may have to brace for delays as the Internal Revenue Service faces a pileup of unprocessed returns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other related disruptions, according to Fox Business. 

The National Taxpayer Advocate has sent a report to Congress in which it estimated that the IRS had a backlog of more than 8.6 million unprocessed individual income tax returns and 2.8 million business returns as of mid-December. It also had nearly 5 million pieces of unanswered mail. 

One reason for the delays is that the IRS was grappling with office closures and the massive task of delivering millions of stimulus checks in 2020 and 2021, all while trying to adapt to the tax code changes in the middle of the filing season.

Second, the IRS is short of staff. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it has 20,000 fewer staff than it did in 2010, and its budget is 20% less than it was in 201e. 

Third, over the last two years, more than 20% of the IRS customer service workforce could not work due to COVID-19 pandemic-related health reasons.

All that being said, below are key deadlines that Americans need to know as compiled by Fox Business.

Jan. 14 

The IRS Free File program opened on Jan. 14 to taxpayers who made $73,000 or less in 2021. They can use the program to file their taxes electronically.

About 100 million Americans (70% of the population) filing taxes in the U.S. qualify for the free program offered by the IRS.

Jan. 18

Taxes are due on Jan. 18 for fourth-quarter estimated payments, which are used to pay levies in quarterly installments on income that is not subject to withholding, such as earnings from self-employment, alimony, dividends and capital gains.

Jan. 24

The IRS said that it will begin accepting 2021 individual income tax returns on Jan. 24.

Treasury Department officials urged taxpayers to file their tax returns as soon as possible, noting that individuals do not need previous returns in order to submit their 2021 returns.

American people are encouraged to file electronically with direct deposit in order to avoid potential delays and receive their return within 21 days. 

Feb. 15

Qualified employees must fill out a tax exemption Form W-4 and give it to their employers by Feb. 15 if eligible. 

April 18

The tax-filing season will end on April 18 this year for most individuals, rather than the usual deadline of April 15.

Taxpayers can request an extension online by filling out Form 4868 using the IRS’ “Free File” tool. They need to submit the form by April 18, or print the form and mail it to the IRS address for their state, making sure it is postmarked by April 18. 

The first estimated tax payment for 2022 is also due on April 18.

June 15

The second estimated tax payment for 2022 is due.

Sept. 15 

The third estimated tax payment for 2022 is due.

Oct. 17 

Americans who received tax deadline extensions must file their returns by Oct. 17.

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