The IRS will start accepting 2022 federal income tax returns on January 23, the tax agency announced on Thursday. Of course, you don’t have to file your return that early. The official due date for returns this year will be Tuesday, April 18, the agency announced. That’s because April 15 — the traditional due date — falls on a Saturday; and Monday, April 17 is Emancipation Day — an official holiday in the District of Columbia, where the IRS is headquartered. The filing due date is the day by which you must have filed your 2022 individual tax return and paid any remaining federal income taxes owed for last year. But anyone can apply for — and will automatically be granted — a six-month extension until October 16, 2023 to file their return if they submit Form 4868 by April 18. Submitting that form, however, will not extend the deadline by which you have to pay any remaining income taxes for 2022. That due date is still April 18. In addition, tax filing and payment deadlines will be extended for anyone living in counties declared federal disaster areas due to recent natural disasters. These include storm victims in several counties of California. They now have until May 15, 2023 to file their returns. It also includes tax filers who don’t live in a federally declared disaster area but whose relevant tax records are located there (e.g., with a tax preparer or at a business in the area). Getting your refund quickly The majority of US tax filers every year are typically owed a refund. Last year, the average refund issued was $3,176. The IRS says it is likely to deliver your refund within 21 days of receiving your return — its typical turnaround time — but only if you fill out your return accurately and completely, file it electronically and opt to have your refund delivered through direct deposit. The agency advises against filing paper returns, if possible. For anyone expecting a refund due to the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, the IRS is prohibited by law from issuing it before mid-February, in order to give the agency time to stop fraudulent refunds from going out. This year, the IRS said EITC refunds will be available “for many” in their bank accounts or on their debit cards by February 28. While millions of tax filers pay a tax professional every year to help them prepare and file their tax returns — or purchase tax software to do so themselves — the IRS offers a free file program for anyone with a 2022 adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less. The program lets you prepare and electronically file your return without charge using software from participating tax preparation companies. In addition, the IRS also offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs, which are free basic tax return preparation for those who generally make $60,000 or less. IRS expects customer service to improve this season During the prior two filing seasons, tax filers experienced an array of customer service problems at the IRS due to staffing shortages and other pandemic-related difficulties at the IRS. Last year, for instance, the agency was only able to handle 13% of the calls it received from filers and faced a large backlog of unprocessed returns. This year should be different. “This filing season is the first to benefit the IRS and our nation’s tax system from multi-year funding in the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Acting IRS Commissioner Doug O’Donnell in a statement released Thursday. “With these new additional resources, taxpayers and tax professionals will see improvements in many areas of the agency this year. We’ve trained thousands of new employees to answer phones and help people.” The agency said it has hired more than 5,000 people to take calls and added more in-person staff to help support taxpayers.