A new federal law, aimed at making it easier for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to detect and prevent refund fraud, will accelerate the W-2 filing deadline for employers to January 31.
For similar reasons, the new law also requires the IRS to hold refunds involving two key refundable tax credits until at least February 15. Here are details on each of these key dates.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, enacted last December, includes a new requirement for employers. Employers are now required to file their copies of Form W-2, submitted to the Social Security Administration, by January 31. The new January 31 filing deadline also applies to certain Forms 1099-MISC reporting non-employee compensation such as payments to independent contractors.
In the past, employers typically had until the end of February, if filing on paper, or the end of March, if filing electronically, to submit their copies of these forms. In addition, there are changes in requesting an extension to file the Form W-2. Only one 30-day extension to file Form W-2 is available and this extension is not automatic. If an extension is necessary, a Form 8809 Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returnsmust be completed as soon as you know an extension is necessary, but by January 31. Please carefully review the instructions for Form 8809, for more information.
The new accelerated deadline will help the IRS improve its efforts to spot errors on returns filed by taxpayers. Having these W-2s and 1099s earlier will make it easier for the IRS to verify the legitimacy of tax returns and properly issue refunds to taxpayers eligible to receive them. In many instances, this will enable the IRS to release tax refunds more quickly than in the past.
The January 31 deadline has long applied to employers furnishing copies of these forms to their employees and that date remains unchanged.
Some Refunds Delayed Until at Least February 15
Due to the PATH Act change, some people will get their federal refunds a little later. The new law requires the IRS to hold the refund for any tax return claiming either the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15. By law, the IRS must hold the entire refund, not just the portion related to the EITC or ACTC.
Even with this change, taxpayers should file their returns as they normally do. Whether or not claiming the EITC or ACTC, the IRS cautions taxpayers not to count on getting a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying other financial obligations. Though the IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, some returns are held for further review.