Don’t Wait: Important Information From the IRS if You’re Waiting to File Your 2021 Tax Return

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Don’t Wait to File Your 2021 Tax Return

Get to know the IRS, its people and the issues that affect taxpayers.

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By Doug O’Donnell, IRS Deputy Commissioner, Services & Enforcement
CL-22-12, August 4, 2022

Every year, millions of people need more time to file their taxes and many focus their attention on the mid-October filing extension deadline. This year, there are special factors at play that make it even more important for people to make sure they don’t wait to file until the last minute before the October 17 deadline and that, to the extent possible, they file electronically.

There are multiple advantages for people who still need to file to do so as soon as possible. More than ever this year, we urge people to file an accurate return electronically as soon as they have the information they need.

For those due a refund, filing electronically not only speeds the payment, but it avoids months of delays for those filing on paper. For those who owe, filing sooner can help them avoid additional penalties and interest. In either situation, filing electronically will avoid lengthy delays and other potential issues as the IRS continues work to reduce its inventory of paper tax returns.

The bottom line is this: Filing early and filing electronically will help people avoid potential delays and in doing so they can help us help them.  And for tax professionals, they can help their clients with avoiding delays and certainty that their tax return has been received and is being processed.

As the Deputy Commissioner for Services & Enforcement, it’s my role to ensure we’re doing everything we can to help people understand not only the tax rules but also the best way to file their taxes. This is part of our larger mission to fairly uphold the nation’s tax laws and to ensure everyone pays the right amount on time.

Here’s some additional information to help people who still haven’t filed or are facing various tax questions before the October extension deadline.

Most U.S. citizens and permanent residents who work in the United States are required to file a tax return if they make more than a certain amount for the year. Generally, if you earn more than the standard deduction for your filing status, you need to file a federal tax return and you may have to pay a penalty if you’re required to file a return but fail to do so.

If you’re waiting to file because you need help or more information, have a more complicated tax situation or owe taxes, the IRS has resources to help get the answers you need to file an accurate return. While you should take the time to file an accurate tax return, don't wait until the last minute and risk missing the October deadline.

When you have all your information together, we encourage you to electronically file a complete and accurate return as early as possible, especially if you’re due a refund. And if you are due a refund, get it faster by choosing to have it directly deposited into your checking or savings account. If you haven’t filed a 2021 tax return yet, please review the scenarios below and act soon if you need to file.

Extension Filers

If you filed for an extension by the April due date, you have until October 17, 2022 to file your 2021 tax return. An extension gives you extra time to file, but not extra time to pay. After you file an extension, if you owe taxes when you do file your return, you might also have to pay penalties and interest on the tax due. Submitting a tax return and paying any amount owed as soon as possible – even if money’s tight and you can’t afford to pay your taxes in full right now – can help you avoid further interest and penalties.

Anyone who owes taxes can review all payment options online. These include visiting to access your Online Account and paying with IRS Direct Pay or with a debit card, credit card or digital wallet. The IRS has options for people who can't pay their taxes, including applying for a payment plan on

IRS has also deployed voice and chat bots in English and Spanish. Chat bots utilize web-based text interaction to provide taxpayers with self-service assistance for common questions regarding payment options. Voice bots allow a caller to verbally navigate an interactive voice response system. Voice bots help provide quick answers to taxpayers’ inquiries about making payments, notices regarding unfiled tax returns and amounts due.

The IRS recently expanded upon this feature by offering an authenticated voice bot. This new option is available in English and Spanish and will allow taxpayers (who owe $25,000 or less) to create and manage installment agreements through self-service applications and avoid long wait times on the phone.

Missed the April Deadline

If you didn’t file your 2021 tax return yet or request an extension to file, don’t panic or let that stop you from filing, especially if you owe money. Filing electronically as soon as possible can help people who didn’t file an extension and missed the April deadline avoid further penalties and interest if they owe taxes.

Some may think that because you don’t owe any taxes that you don’t need to file a return, but they could be missing out on valuable credits. Owing tax and having a filing requirement are two separate situations. If you’re not sure whether you’re required to file, use our Interactive Tax Assistant Do I Need to File a Tax Return? to help you figure it out. This tool determines whether you’re required to file a return based on the amount and type of income you received and whether your income is more than the standard deduction applicable to your filing status.

Generally, people who choose not to file a tax return because they didn't earn enough money to be required to file won't receive a penalty if they file and are getting a refund. This could apply if you had federal income tax withheld from your pay, made estimated tax payments or qualify to claim tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Also, you still have time to get your full Child Tax Credit or claim a Recovery Rebate Credit for a missing stimulus payment, but you need to file a 2021 tax return to receive them. Sign in securely to your Online Account if you’re looking for account information  from your most recently filed tax return, including your adjusted gross income, Economic Impact Payments or advance Child Tax Credit payments so that you can file an accurate return. If you still need to file a 2021 tax return, file electronically and, if you’re due a refund, choose direct deposit.

Please File Electronically

The IRS expects millions of 2021 tax returns to be filed before the October 17 due date, including those who requested an extension, so we recommend you file electronically as soon as possible.

People who file electronically avoid the processing delays facing those who file paper returns. Electronically filed returns with no errors are typically processed in 21 days or less. While the IRS continues to make progress handling unprocessed 2021 paper tax returns, paper tax returns are processed manually in the order they are received so they not only take us longer to get to, but they also take longer to process.

Filing electronically benefits you as an individual, and it also creates wider benefits for the nation’s tax system. By filing electronically, you’re reducing the burden on the paper processing system and allowing others who need to file on paper to get their return processed sooner. Those who cannot currently file electronically include victims of tax-related identity theft, people seeking relief as an injured spouse or U.S. citizens or resident aliens who live or work outside the United States and must mail their tax return.

Available through October 17, electronic filing options include using a free tax return preparation site, commercial software or an authorized e-file provider. Eligible taxpayers can also prepare and file their tax return electronically for free through IRS Free File.  All these products are also available in Spanish. There’s also a special free tax resource available for the military community called MilTax, offered through the Department of Defense. There are no income limits and eligible taxpayers can use MilTax to electronically file a federal tax return and up to three state returns for free.

Where to Get Help

Given ongoing high call volume continues, we understand the filing experience is more difficult for taxpayers who need to interact with us. We encourage you to turn first to online resources. This area has been a huge focus for the IRS, and critical tools are available that people may overlook. The online tools and resources range from tax account and refund tracking tools, to tax law research tools like the Interactive Tax Assistant and answers for Frequently Asked Questions on dozens of subjects. Use the Where’s My Refund online tool and the automated tools available through the Online Account on

The IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program still offers face-to-face help preparing taxes in some locations across the country. It offers free basic tax return preparation to people who generally make $58,000 or less and people with disabilities or limited English-speaking taxpayers. The VITA/TCE Site Locator can help you find the nearest community-based site staffed by IRS-trained and certified volunteers.

Many people use a trusted tax professional to help guide them through the process of doing their taxes and avoiding errors. There are various types of tax return preparers, including certified public accountants, Enrolled Agents, attorneys and many others who don't have a professional credential. Because tax professionals have access to an individual's personal and financial information, it's important to choose a tax preparer wisely, so use this online directory to find a tax professional in your area.

I want to thank everyone who filed their return already, and I appreciate the diligence of those who are currently working to get their return filed. By filing your taxes, you are a vital part of  helping  our government and our great nation. Every year, the roughly $4 trillion in taxes the IRS collects supports work in vital areas like national defense and education – and many more. We are in this together and we understand that our tax professionals face many of the same challenges we see in the IRS, with high demand and need for additional staffing. We’re committed to continuously improving our service to ensure the tax process is easy and accessible and working with the tax community to improve the experience. And remember, our dedicated workforce, community volunteers and tax professionals are available  to help with in-person and online assistance.

Doug O’Donnell
IRS Deputy Commissioner, Services & Enforcement

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About the Author

Doug O’Donnell is the Deputy Commissioner, Services & Enforcement. He reports directly to the IRS Commissioner and oversees the four primary operating divisions and Criminal Investigation as well as other service and enforcement functions including the Return Preparer Office, Office of Professional Responsibility, Office of Online Services and Enterprise Digitalization & Case Management.

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