What Is Tax Season?

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Tax season is the time of year when individuals and businesses receive tax forms and then file tax returns with the IRS. Tax season usually runs from January through mid-April.

Key Takeaways

  • Tax season is the time of year when individuals and businesses get their tax forms and file them with the IRS.
  • It runs from January to mid-April.
  • The IRS often kicks off its own tax season when it starts accepting returns, typically at the end of January. Tax preparers may start tax season in early January.
  • Engaging with tax preparers outside of tax season might be beneficial in some cases, such as if you don’t have an urgent issue and would like more time to meet with your preparer.

How Does Tax Season Work?

The IRS declares an official tax season when it starts accepting federal income tax returns, but that can differ from year to year. It's usually at the end of January.

The tax season has a typical run time from around the start of the calendar year through mid-April, but there can be slight differences. Tax season may be slightly different for tax professionals, such as accountants, as well as tax software companies like TurboTax and H&R Block. For example, an accountant might be particularly focused on helping self-employed individuals with their tax returns, in which case, their tax season might also revolve around quarterly deadlines for estimated taxes.


A tax preparer might have clients who tend to request filing extensions with the IRS. They might have a secondary tax season in the fall, in this case, leading up to the typical extension filing deadline of Oct. 15.

The primary tax season usually takes place during the first few months of the calendar year. Annual income taxes are based on the prior year’s income, which is why tax season starts around the beginning of the year. You might not be accounting for all of your income for the year if you start the filing process in December. But you might be able to confirm what you made for all of the tax year if you wait until January.

Examples of Tax Season

The official start of the IRS tax season fluctuates a bit, but it's generally a few weeks into the year, or sometime in January. For example, in 2022, the tax season began on Jan. 24.

In 2021, the start date for tax season was delayed until Feb. 12. The IRS said this gave the agency time to do more programming and testing of their systems following some end-of-2020 tax changes. The pandemic caused shifts in filing deadlines in 2020 and 2021.

The end date of tax season typically lands on the tax deadline of April 15 for individual income returns. There can be slight changes, however, such as if April 15 falls on a weekend or holiday, or when extenuating circumstances prompt the IRS to move the date back.

What Tax Season Means for Individuals

Understanding tax season can help a taxpayer file their taxes on time, while also being mindful of what tax preparers may be going through. You might want to leave a little extra time to get a response if you have a tax question for an accountant during tax season, for example, compared to the timeline you might expect if you asked in August.


One other potential advantage to understanding tax season is that it could help you get your tax refund sooner if you're expecting one. In general, the sooner you can file your tax return toward the start of tax season, the sooner you’ll get your refund. It takes the IRS 21 days or less to issue a refund on an e-filed return, but up to six months if you file a paper return.

You might also find that it’s better for you and your tax preparer to engage outside of tax season. For example, if you want to meet with a new tax preparer to see if they’re a good fit for you to switch to, they might have more time and be more relaxed if you meet with them outside of tax season.

You may also want to meet with an accountant or tax professional if you go through a life event, such as marriage or if you become a parent. You may want to assess your tax withholding to ensure you pay enough in taxes throughout the year so that you don't owe taxes come tax season.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can you start filing taxes?

You can usually start filing taxes for the preceding year by the end of January. For example, the IRS began accepting tax returns for tax year 2021 on Jan. 24, 2022.

Is it better for married people to file jointly or separately?

In general, most couples file jointly if they're married. Your tax rate may be higher as an individual than it would be on a joint return and there are a number of tax credits you won't be able to claim. That means you'll typically end up paying more in taxes if you file separately. However, you should calculate your taxes both ways to determine which filing status works best for your situation.

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