IRS pushes start of 2021 tax season as online filing opens.

(CNN) – Because of the pandemic and stimulus payments, the Internal Revenue Service will not start accepting federal tax returns until Feb. 12.

The IRS announced the change, which shifts the start of tax season about a month later than usual, on Friday.

However, if you want to get a jump on things, the IRS’ Free File is open. The government agency works with private companies to help Americans who make $72,000 or less per year prepare and file their taxes.

Even though the service is free, a government audit found that 14 million people ended up paying for their 2019 filing. The IRS says it has tried to make it easier for people to file and find their free resources.

For those that do take advantage of Free File or use other tax software, any taxes filed online before Feb. 12 will not be given to the IRS until that date.

To speed refunds, the IRS is urging taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as possible. The deadline for filing remains April 15.

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