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IRS warns of a messy tax season

Signage outside the Internal Revenue Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Friday, March 19, 2021.Samuel Corum/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — The federal tax filing season will run from Jan. 24 to April 18 this year, the IRS said Monday, warning in its announcement that staffing shortages and paperwork backlogs could make for a messy and frustrating experience for taxpayers.

In a briefing Monday, Treasury Department officials said the IRS will struggle to promptly answer telephone calls from taxpayers with questions and that a lower level of service should be expected. They blamed the lack of resources on Republican legislators, who have blocked efforts to increase funding at the tax collection agency.

The Biden administration has asked for an additional $80 billion over a decade for the IRS to bolster its enforcement and its customer service capacity. That request is part of the administration’s proposed spending package, the Build Back Better Act, which is stalled in Congress.

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Treasury officials noted that in the first half of last year, there were fewer than 15,000 employees available to handle more than 240 million calls — one person for every 16,000 calls.

The tax season this year will be more complicated than usual because pandemic-related economic impact payments and child tax credit payments were distributed last year. Taxpayers will be required to report the amount of money that they received.

The IRS is urging taxpayers to file their returns electronically, and the agency said that people should generally receive refunds within 21 days of filing.

Usually Tax Day falls on April 15, but it will be delayed for most tax payers to April 18 because of the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington. Filing deadlines for state taxes may differ.

Taxpayers in Massachusetts will have until April 19 to file both their federal and state 2021 income tax returns.