Most individual wage earners will file a tax return once per year. The time for filing those returns is between January and April, and the returns will cover the period of the previous year. For example, in January to April of 2021, we will all be filing our personal income tax returns covering the year 2020.
If you’re a worker being paid a regular wage and are expecting a W-2 form from your employer at the end of the year, you can likely file your tax returns as soon as you have that W-2 along with any other tax forms you are expecting (such as 1099, 1098, and health benefit information). Tax forms are due from your employers by January 31st, but some are able to get it to you long before then.
If you’re expecting a refund, you probably want to file as soon as you have the paperwork together. The quicker you file, the quicker you’ll get your refund.
If you’re expecting to owe more taxes than your employer withheld throughout the year, you have until April 15th to file your tax return and submit payment without a penalty. Even if you don’t have the money to pay what you owe, you should still file a return to avoid a further penalty for not-filing. If you can’t afford your tax bill, you may be eligible for a payment plan or a compromise that reduces or eliminates what you owe. And so, filing a return is always the right thing to do.