(WGHP) — If you’re itching to submit your 2021 tax return and get your refund, you may not have to wait much longer.

The Internal Revenue Service says tax season will officially begin Monday. IRS Free File, which allows taxpayers who made $73,000 or less to file electronically for free, started accepting tax returns on Jan. 14 and will be holding them until the IRS is ready to accept returns at the start of the season.

The deadline for most filers is April 18. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Oct. 17.

While not everyone is required to file a tax return, some may wish to do so anyway to claim credits such as the Recovery Rebate Credit or Child Tax Credit.

Remember, before you start filing, you will need any W-2 forms from your employer or employers. You may also need the following documentation if applicable.

The IRS also notes that most income is taxable, including unemployment income, refund interest, income from the gig economy and virtual currencies.

When will I get my refund?

Most taxpayers should see their refund within 21 days of filing, so long as the return is filed electronically with no issues and the taxpayer selects direct deposit. That means, if you file on Monday, you will likely see your refund by Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. The IRS even has an online tool so you can check the status of your refund.

Last year, the average tax refund was more than $2,800, according to the IRS. There’s no word yet on what the average may be this year as the agency prepares for more than 160 tax returns this season.

If your refund involves the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, the IRS legally cannot send you a refund before mid-February. This is to give the IRS time to weed out any fraudulent refunds.

Your refund may take longer if your return needs to be reviewed manually. This happens when the IRS system detects a possible error or missing information or if there’s a reason to suspect identity theft or fraud.

How bad can a delay get? Well, the IRS is still working to process some tax returns from previous years. That backlog, however, doesn’t include any paper and electronic individual 2020 refund returns that were filed without errors and were received before April 2021. And even if your 2020 tax return is still in IRS purgatory, you generally don’t have to wait for it to process before filing your 2021 tax return.

What do I need to do for the Child Tax Credit?

If you got your advance Child Tax Credit, you can get the second half of your credit by filing your 2021 tax return. If you didn’t get the credit but should have, you can claim the full credit in your tax return.

When you file, you’ll need to know the details of the CTC payments you received. You can find this information on the CTC Update Portal. Starting in late December and continuing through January, the IRS is also mailing out hard copies of Letter 6419, 2021 advance Child Tax Credit, which includes important information that can help make sure your return is accurate.

Can I still get my Third Stimulus Check?

The third round of Economic Impact Payments was an advance payment of the tax year 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit. That means the IRS will be using your tax return to make sure that you got what you should’ve gotten.

As a reminder, this payment was $1,400 for individuals or $2,800 for married couples filing jointly, plus an additional $1,400 for each qualifying dependent. To qualify, you have to be a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien with a valid Social Security number. The payment amount was reduced for any individual with an adjusted gross income of more than $75,000, head of household making $112,000 or married or joint filers making $150,000. You would not have qualified for any of the payment if you were an individual with an adjusted gross income of more than $80,000, head of household making $120,000 or married or joint filers making $160,000.

Most people have already gotten their stimulus payments, but there are steps to claim it in case you didn’t receive yours.

To determine if you are eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit for missing stimulus payments, you will want to check your Economic Impact Payment details in your IRS online account or wait for a hard copy of Letter 6475, Your Third Economic Impact Payment. The IRS plans to start mailing out Letter 6475 in late January.

If you do qualify, file a 2021 tax return to claim your remaining stimulus amount.

I need help!

If you need any help filing, the IRS asks everyone to look to online resources before calling. From Jan. 1 to May 17, 2021, the IRS received more than 145 million calls—that’s quadruple the number of calls the agency gets in a normal year.

“Our phone volumes continue to remain at record-setting levels,” Rettig said. “We urge people to check IRS.gov and establish an online account to help them access information more quickly. We have invested in developing new online capacities to make this a quick and easy way for taxpayers to get the information they need.”

More information is available on IRS.gov, and you can find free help through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly.

Key filing season dates

The IRS has published a list of the important dates taxpayers should keep in mind for this year’s filing season:

  • January 14: IRS Free File opens. Taxpayers can begin filing returns through IRS Free File partners; tax returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting January 24. Tax software companies also are accepting tax filings in advance.
     
  • January 18: Due date for tax year 2021 fourth quarter estimated tax payment.
     
  • January 24: IRS begins 2022 tax season. Individual 2021 tax returns begin being accepted and processing begins
     
  • January 28: Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day to raise awareness of valuable tax credits available to many people – including the option to use prior-year income to qualify.
     
  • April 18: Due date to file 2021 tax return or request extension and pay tax owed due to Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., even for those who live outside the area.
     
  • April 19: Due date to file 2021 tax return or request extension and pay tax owed for those who live in MA or ME due to Patriots’ Day holiday
     
  • October 17: Due date to file for those requesting an extension on their 2021 tax returns