Steps to Take Now to Get a Jump on Your Taxes

Tax planning is for everyone. Get ready today to file your 2021 federal income tax return. Planning ahead can help you file an accurate return and avoid processing delays that can slow your tax  refund.

Steps you can take now to make tax filing easier in 2022

Use online account  to securely access the latest information available about your federal tax account and see information from your most recently filed tax return on IRS.gov.

You can:

  • View the amounts of the Economic Impact Payments you received
  • Access CTC UP for information about advance Child Tax Credit payments
  • Access your tax records via Get Transcript
  • Make a payment or set up a payment agreement online
  • Approve or reject authorization requests from your tax professional
  • Update your email address and opt-out/in for selected paper notice preferences

If you have questions about how to create an account or how to reset your username or password, see  How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools.

Act now if you need to create an account. If you are unable to verify your identity online, there is a mail option you can use but that takes longer.

Organized tax records make preparing a complete and accurate tax return easier. It helps you avoid errors that lead to processing delays that slow your refund and may also help you find overlooked deductions or credits.

Wait to file until you have your tax records including:

Notify the IRS if your address changes and notify the Social Security Administration of a legal name change.

Remember, most income is taxable. This includes:

An ITIN only needs to be renewed if it has expired and is needed on a U.S. federal tax return.

If your ITIN wasn't included on a U.S. federal tax return at least once for tax years 2018, 2019, and 2020, your ITIN will expire on December 31, 2021.

As a reminder, ITINs with middle digits 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, or 88 have expired. In addition, ITINs with middle digits 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, or 99, IF assigned before 2013, have expired. If you previously submitted a renewal application and it was approved, you do not need to renew again.

Consider adjusting your withholding if you owed taxes or received a large refund last year. Changing your withholding can help you avoid a tax bill or let you keep more money each payday. Life changes – getting married or divorced, welcoming a child, or taking on a second job - may also mean changing withholding.

Use the Tax Withholding Estimator to help you determine the right amount of tax to have withheld from your paycheck. This tool on IRS.gov will help determine if you need to adjust your withholding and submit a new Form W-4 to your employer.

Consider estimated tax payments. If you receive a substantial amount of non-wage income like self-employment income, investment income, taxable Social Security benefits and in some instances, pension and annuity income you should make quarterly estimated tax payments, with the last payment for 2021 due on January 18, 2022.

Log in to your online account to make a payment online or go to IRS.gov/payments.

The fastest way for you to get your tax refund is by filing electronically and choosing direct deposit.

Direct deposit gives you access to your refund faster than a paper check. Don't have a bank account? Learn how to open an account at an FDIC-Insured bank or through the National Credit Union Locator Tool.

If you are a Veteran, see the Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP) for access to financial services at participating banks.

Eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refunds by using direct deposit. The IRS uses the same electronic transfer system to deposit tax refunds that is used by other federal agencies to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.

Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost or stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable. And it saves taxpayer money. It costs more than $1 for every paper refund issued, but only a dime for each direct deposit.

What's new and what to consider when you file in 2022

If you received advance payments, when you file your 2021 tax return, you will need to compare the advance Child Tax Credit payments that you received during 2021 with the amount of the Child Tax Credit that you can properly claim on your 2021 tax return. The fastest way for you to get your tax refund that will include your Child Tax Credit is by filing electronically and choosing direct deposit.

If you received less than the amount that you're eligible for, you'll claim a credit for the remaining amount of Child Tax Credit on your 2021 tax return. If you received more than the amount that you're eligible for, you may need to repay some or all of that excess payment when you file.

In January 2022, the IRS will send you Letter 6419 to provide the total amount of advance Child Tax Credit payments that you received in 2021. You need to keep this and any other IRS letters you received about advance CTC payments you received with your tax records and refer to them when you file.

See Reconciling Your Advance Child Tax Credit Payments on Your 2021 Tax Return for more information.

Individuals who didn't qualify for third Economic Impact Payments or did not receive the full amount may be eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit based on their 2021 tax situation. The fastest way for you to get your tax refund that will include your Recovery Rebate Credit is by filing electronically and choosing direct deposit.

If you received the full amount for your third Economic Impact Payment, you won't include any information about it when you file your 2021 tax return.

If you're eligible, you'll need to file a 2021 tax return even if you don't usually file to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit and you didn't get the full amount of the third Economic Impact Payment.

File an accurate return to avoid processing delays that slow your refund. You will need the amount of third Economic Impact Payment and any Plus-Up Payments you received to calculate your 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit amount using the 2021 RRC Worksheet or tax preparation software.

In early 2022, the IRS will send you Letter 6475 to provide the total amount of the third Economic Impact Payment and any Plus-Up payments that you received. You need to keep this and any other IRS letters you received about your stimulus payments with your tax records and refer to them when you file. Or you can log in to your online account to securely access your Economic Impact Payment amounts. If you are claiming a 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, you will need the total amount of your third Economic Impact payment and any plus up payments to file your return accurately and avoid a refund delay.

Remember, only eligible individuals who did not qualify for a third Economic Impact Payment or did not receive the full amount should claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on a 2021 tax return. Do not include amounts of missing first or second stimulus payments on your 2021 return. 

See IRS.gov/rrc for more information.

Many different factors can affect the timing of your refund after we receive your return. Although the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, the IRS cautions taxpayers not to rely on receiving a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills. Some returns may require additional review and may take longer. For example, the IRS, along with its partners in the tax industry, continue to strengthen security reviews to help protect against identity theft and refund fraud. Additionally, refunds for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) can't be issued before mid-February. The law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund − even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC.

Some returns, filed electronically or on paper, may need manual review delaying the processing if our systems detect a possible error, is missing information, or there is suspected identity theft or fraud. Some of these situations require us to correspond with taxpayers, but some do not. This work does require special handling by an IRS employee so, in these instances, it may take the IRS more than the normal 21 days to issue any related refund. In those cases where IRS is able to correct the return without corresponding, the IRS will send an explanation to the taxpayer.

Bookmark IRS.gov resources and online tools

Make your first stop IRS.gov where you'll find online tools to help you get the information you need. The tools are easy-to-use and available 24 hours a day. Millions of people use them to help file and pay taxes, find information about their accounts, and get answers to tax questions.

Get the help you need when you're ready to file with these online tools:

Use IRS Free File

Beginning in January 2022, almost everyone can file electronically for free on IRS.gov or with the IRS2Go app. The IRS Free File program, available only through IRS.gov, offers eligible taxpayers brand-name tax preparation software packages to use at no cost. Some of the Free File packages also offer free state tax return preparation. The software does all the work of finding deductions, credits and exemptions for you.

If you're comfortable preparing your own taxes, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, regardless of your income, to file your tax returns either by mail or online.

Use MilTax if you're a service member or qualifying veteran

Members of the armed forces and some veterans may take advantage of MilTax. This free tax resource is available for the military community, offered through the Department of Defense. There are no income limits. MilTax includes tax preparation and electronic filing software, personalized support from tax consultants and current information about filing taxes. It's designed to address the realities of military life – including deployments, combat and training pay, housing and rentals and multi-state filings. Eligible taxpayers can use MilTax to electronically file a federal tax return and up to three state returns for free.

Use the VITA Locator Tool

The IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals. The VITA Locator Tool. Will help you locate an open VITA site near you.

Find a tax professional

You have several options to help find a tax preparer. One resource is Choosing a Tax Professional, which offers a wealth of information for selecting a tax professional. There are various types of tax return preparers, including enrolled agents, certified public accountants, attorneys and some who don't have a professional credential.

The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help you find preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS, or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

Use the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA)

Beginning in January 2022 use the ITA to find out if life event changes make you eligible for credits you didn't qualify for in the past. The ITA is a tool that provides answers to many tax law questions. It can determine if a type of income is taxable, if you're eligible to claim certain credits, or if you can deduct expenses on your tax return. It also provides answers for general questions, such as determining your filing status, if you can claim dependents, or if you have to file a tax return.

After you file, check the status of your refund by going to IRS.gov and clicking on Where's My Refund? The status of your refund will be available within 24 hours after the IRS accepts your e-filed tax return. If you filed a paper return, it can take up to four weeks after it is mailed. The Where's My Refund? tool updates once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so you only need to check once a day.

File electronically and choose Direct Deposit for your tax refund – it's the fastest and safest way to receive your money. Electronically filed tax returns are received within 24 hours, and paper tax returns take weeks. If you file a paper return, you can still choose direct deposit. The FDIC website offers information to help you open an account online.

There's never been a better time to join the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. VITA/TCE volunteers provide free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers. With many people experiencing financial changes this year, additional volunteers are needed to assist them. In response, the IRS has new ways to make volunteering easier.

Some sites will now give volunteers the option to assist taxpayers virtually rather than the face to face assistance. This allows volunteers to help taxpayers complete their returns over the phone or online. Some volunteers may conduct a quality review with the taxpayer before the tax return is e-filed with the IRS. Virtual volunteering is a great option for new volunteers, since they can ask experienced volunteers for help while completing tax returns.

Visit IRS.gov/volunteers to learn more and sign up. After signing up, you'll receive more information about attending a virtual orientation.

Link & Learn Taxes is a web-based training program for volunteers. It prepares VITA and TCE partners and volunteers to provide quality tax return preparation services in their local communities. This fun, interactive course teaches you to accurately prepare income tax returns for individuals, and you can obtain volunteer certification along the way at your own pace.