The I.R.S. will start accepting tax returns on Feb. 12, about two weeks later than usual.

Late-year tax changes approved by Congress are now forcing the I.R.S. to push back the start of tax filing season, reports The New York Times’s Ann Carrns.

Even so, the I.R.S. said, most taxpayers due a refund for the 2020 tax year will get it within three weeks if they file electronically and have the money deposited directly into their bank account. The average refund in recent years has been more than $2,500. Many families use refunds to pay bills or use it as a kind of forced savings plan.

Typically, the Internal Revenue Service begins accepting and processing individual income tax returns in late January. But the agency has pushed back the start of filing to Feb. 12 for returns for the tax year 2020.

The I.R.S. Free File program is ready to use now, if you are comfortable preparing your own tax return. Free File, a partnership between the I.R.S. and tax software companies, is available to people with adjusted gross income of $72,000 or less. The program offers free online preparation and filing of federal returns, but some providers charge fees for state returns. You can complete your return now, and it will be transmitted to the I.R.S. starting Feb. 12.

This is shaping up to be another challenging tax season for the Internal Revenue Service, which has struggled in recent years with reduced budgets that have forced it to make do with fewer workers and outdated computer systems. During the pandemic, it has also had the extra work of distributing stimulus checks.

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