Friday is the delayed start of the tax filing season.
Like everyone else, the already short-staffed IRS had a tough time adjusting to working during in the pandemic, plus it had to figure out how to get two rounds of relief payments out, which put the agency a little behind.
In 2020, the filing deadline was extended to July 15 to make things a little easier. This year, the traditional April 15 cutoff is back, so the next few months are likely to be fairly stressful at the IRS, and this year’s tax season is probably going to be a lot more stressful for many filers as well.
And the calculations may be a bit more complicated, especially for people who lost their jobs or had their hours cut back.
“A lot of people don’t realize that when you get unemployment, it’s taxable. So they might not have had adequate withholding,” said Keith Fogg, a professor at Harvard Law School who also runs the federal tax clinic there.
“Last year, a lot of people are pulling money out of their retirement accounts to try to make ends meet, which is creating more taxable income,” he said.
All this is on top of the normal stress many people experience during tax-filing season.
Lynn Bufka, a senior director at the American Psychological Association, said one way to deal with the stress is to grasp control where you can.
“We have some control over when we start the tax process. We have some control over trying to have our records and materials organized in a way to make it more efficient. That helps us manage stress,” Bufka said.
Another tool? Free tax prep.
“You know, there may be people out there who have never used free services before, because they’ve never needed to,” said Laura Scherler, a senior director at United Way Worldwide, which partners with the IRS to offer the services in many communities.
But of course, 2020 was different and, Scherler said, “especially if you’re having trouble paying your bills, you know, buying groceries, affording your utilities, tax preparation is not something that you have to spend money on.”
And in many cases, our own tax dollars pay for the service.