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Collage of a January 2022 Calendar with the words  Tax Season  written on it and multiple 1040 Tax Return forms in the background
Money; Getty Images

After yet another year dominated by COVID-19 and stimulus checks, the 2022 tax filing season is finally (almost) here. The IRS announced Monday that it'll start accepting and processing tax returns on Jan. 24.

This is a few weeks earlier than in 2021, when the agency didn't start dealing with individual tax returns until Feb. 12. But there's a catch: The IRS is still struggling to cope with its pandemic-induced backlog, and as a result it's warning taxpayers they may encounter "frustrating" delays and long wait times for customer service.

"In many areas, we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a news release.

The fastest way to file your 2021 taxes and get your tax refund is, as always, to file your taxes electronically. Be extremely careful that you're providing accurate information, and choose direct deposit as the delivery method for your refund.

Here's what else you need to know about tax season this year:

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When are taxes due this year?

Tax Day 2022 falls on Monday, April 18. For most people, that's the deadline to submit your 2021 individual tax return, request an extension and/or pay the IRS any money owed.

Recent years notwithstanding, federal taxes are usually due on April 15. But this year the IRS pushed back the deadline because of the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C. Residents of Maine and Massachusetts have an additional scheduling snag to contend with thanks to Patriots' Day; for them, tax returns are due April 19.

State tax deadlines may vary. Your tax deadline may also be different if you were affected by a natural disaster like the Colorado wildfires.

You can start filing your taxes way before the 2022 tax deadline, though. IRS Free File partners will start accepting returns Friday, and providers like TurboTax are already open. Your paperwork just won't actually get sent to the IRS until Jan. 24.

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How long will it take to get my 2021 tax refund?

The IRS says it intends to distribute most refunds within 21 days of processing returns. So the sooner you file, the sooner you could get your refund. But there are some exceptions.

Your refund may take longer if your return requires manual review, gets flagged as potentially fraudulent or is missing information. The IRS is also legally prevented from sending out refunds in connection with the the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit before mid-February.

Last year, the IRS issued nearly 130 million tax refunds. The average amount was $2,815.

What if I never got my 2020 tax refund?

This is probably the result of that aforementioned backlog. According to the IRS, "all paper and electronic individual 2020 refund returns received prior to April 2021 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review."

If you're still waiting on your refund, there's not much you can do. But the IRS does note that you don't have to wait for the government to finish processing your 2020 return in order to take care of your 2021 taxes.

Heed these dates, and file whenever you're ready.

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