The Internal Revenue Service is responsible for declaring the beginning and ending of tax season, and it may vary year to year by a day or so. "Tax season" refers to the timeframe in which the IRS will accept income tax filings with refunds from the previous tax year. You can file before it begins, but you may not have the documents you need.
IRS Tax Season Begins in January
Yearly, tax season typically begins in late January. For 2017, it was January 23, and for 2018, it was January 29. The IRS usually makes the announcement in December of the previous year or in early January of the current year. The start and ending of the tax year can vary depending upon what day of the week April 15 lands upon, as well as other factors.
Getting Documents From Employers
You need certain documents from your employer to begin filing your taxes, and some of these may not be available to you on the day tax season officially begins. Taxpayers can expect to receive W-2s (or 1099s) from their employers prior to January 31 of each year, which is the deadline set by the IRS for tax forms to be issued by employers. In the absence of W-2s or 1099s, taxpayers can start their income tax returns using their last paystub of the previous year and IRS Form 4852.
Filing Before Tax Season Begins
If you have the documents you need and want to file early, you can file tax returns prior to the beginning of the official tax season. However, this won't get you your refund much faster, since the IRS will not process any refunds due until after the start of tax season.
Filing After Tax Season Ends
Of course, the IRS will accept returns filed after tax season ends. However, you should keep in mind any taxes owed will be subject to additional fees.
Tax Season for CPAs
Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are typically busiest during tax season. For these professionals, the months of January through April are their "season" when they often work extra hours assisting taxpayers with filing taxes.
Get Ready for Tax Season
No matter what the date is, pulling together all the necessary documents to prepare for the start of tax season will help your filing go smoothly. It will also give you time to pull together the funds to pay any taxes due by April 15.