Your income tax refund check may be smaller this year. Here's why

Raphael Romero Ruiz
Arizona Republic
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Taxpayers could begin filing their returns on Jan. 23, 2023.

With the new year comes a new tax season.

Taxpayers, yes that includes you and me, are preparing tax returns with the hopes of receiving speedy refunds from the IRS. And like any other tax season, there are a few changes that may be unknown to some taxpayers.

This year one significant change is the expiration of certain tax credits that provided additional support to families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress didn't make these tax changes permanent, so they have reverted back to pre-pandemic tax levels.

One of those changes is the child tax credit where most working parents received a benefit of $3,600, or $3,000 for those high-earning families. This aided approximately 61 million children, according to the Treasury Department. Before the pandemic, the maximum credit was $2,000 per child for families eligible to claim it.

Another pandemic-era tax credit change is impacting low to moderate earned-income taxpayers with no children who received a maximum of $1,500 for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Now that is $560.

The child and dependent care credit, which was made for those families who needed caretakers while they worked, has been reduced to a maximum of $3,000 for one qualifying person and $6,000 for two or more, from maximums of $4,000 and $8,000, respectively, that applied for the 2021 tax year.

The tax benefits for charitable donations also have been pared back a bit, too. Last year, taxpayers who took the standard deduction still could claim a deduction of up to $600. That's no longer available for people, except for those who itemize.

Taxpayers will be receiving smaller refunds or in some cases balance resulting from these changes. So here's what you need to know before you do your taxes this year:

When does tax filing season officially begin?

The IRS has issued a warning to taxpayers not to anticipate receiving their 2022 tax refunds by a specific date.

The official start date for the tax filing season was announced in mid-January by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Taxpayers could begin filing their returns on Jan. 23, 2023.

The IRS suggests taxpayers file their returns electronically to ensure faster processing and to check the status of their refund using the "Where's My Refund" tool on the website.

When is the federal tax filing deadline?

For most taxpayers, the deadline to file their federal income tax returns is quickly approaching. According to the IRS, the tax day for most filers this year is Tuesday, April 18. This year the traditional April 15 deadline falls on a Saturday, and the following Monday is a holiday in Washington, D.C. But filing an automatic extension can push the filing deadline to Oct. 16.

Some taxpayers may be eligible for additional time to file, like those in federal disaster areas such as victims of the recent storms in California. The IRS advises taxpayers to check their filing status to determine if they qualify for an extension.

When to expect your tax refund

The IRS has issued a warning to taxpayers not to anticipate receiving their 2022 tax refunds by a specific date. The agency stated that certain filings may require additional review, which may cause delays in the refund process.

The IRS warned that filing your taxes electronically and getting them via direct deposit may make the process a bit faster, but errors or issues like identity theft may impede it. Additionally, those who claim the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit should expect to receive their refunds no earlier than mid-February, according to the agency.

According to a report from the IRS, as of Nov. 18, there were 3.4 million unprocessed individual returns that had been received for the 2022 tax year, including filings for previous years. Of these pending returns, 1.7 million require error correction or another special handling, and the remaining 1.7 million are paper filings.

To address the backlog and improve customer service, the IRS has hired additional workers and plans to hire more in preparation for the upcoming tax season. These efforts are part of a broader plan for agency improvements, which is being funded with nearly $80 billion over the next decade.

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