The Internal Revenue Service needs a little extra time to prepare for tax season this year. The agency said today it will start accepting 2020 tax return filings on Feb. 12. Most other years, filing begins in late January.

So far, the agency hasn’t announced any changes to the April 15 filing deadline, however.

The IRS said it made the change so it could get its systems ready to process any stimulus funds that had not yet been issued. Congress approved $600 in coronavirus relief for many individuals last month, and the IRS is distributing those payments.

“Planning for the nation’s filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop to prepare for this as well as delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. “Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation’s most important filing seasons ever. This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible.”

The change will mostly affect those who file their taxes early, because it means the IRS will not start processing those returns until next month. Tax software companies and the agency’s Free File system began accepting returns on Friday, but they will not officially be transmitted to the IRS until Feb. 12.

“It is completely reasonable that the IRS would need more time to get the technology in place to process returns given how late legislation was passed affecting tax season. No doubt this will cause some delays in processing of refunds, coming at an inopportune time when so many Americans have lost income over the past year or are currently unemployed,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst. “The IRS, which has been underfunded for years because of its unpopular — in some quarters — mission, has been affected just like every other workforce by the pandemic. Why should we be surprised that after a year unlike any other that tax filing season would be any different?”

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