Traditionally, tax returns and payments are due on a set schedule. Specifically, you must file a return by April 15 or by the next business day if the 15th falls on a weekend or a holiday. However, things were a little different in 2020. Due to COVID-19, the IRS pushed back the deadline to July 15, 2020. This gave Americans coping with the pandemic extra time to complete their paperwork and submit money owed. 

Because the deadline was changed last year and the coronavirus pandemic is still raging, you may be wondering if the due date will be pushed back this year, too. Here's what you need to know about the likelihood of IRS delays in 2021. 

Man completing tax forms.

Image source: Getty Images.

Will there be IRS delays for your 2020 tax return?

If you're hoping for a delayed deadline before your 2020 taxes are due, you're most likely going to be disappointed.

The IRS pushed back the April 15 due date last year because the coronavirus outbreak began in earnest in March, just weeks before returns had to be submitted. It was an unexpected emergency that no one was prepared to handle. 

Since the pandemic will have been going on for more than a year before the April 15, 2021 deadline for submitting your 2020 taxes, no one can claim to have been caught off guard by it this year. Most individuals and businesses have already adapted to what passes for a new normal, so there's no immediate emergency that would prompt the IRS to automatically push back the tax deadline for everyone. 

Of course, it's possible things could still change between now and April 15. With new strains of COVID-19 starting to develop, a worsening pandemic is possible. If unexpected events cause a new emergency situation beyond the current status quo, the IRS certainly could react by delaying the deadline since it's established a precedent for doing so.

This doesn't mean there won't be a delay in processing your return

Although it's unlikely that the IRS is going to push back the April 15, 2021 due date, this doesn't mean everything is guaranteed to go smoothly or that no delays will happen on the agency's end. 

The IRS has recently announced that it will begin accepting tax forms on Feb. 12, 2021. This is later than normal, as the agency usually opens up filing season at the end of January. The delay resulted from the fact the IRS needs more time to test its systems after it was sidetracked by delivering COVID-19 payments to eligible Americans. 

Since taxpayers can't file their returns as early, those who would normally submit their paperwork at the end of January or in early February will experience a delay in filing and won't get their refund as quickly as a result. 

President Joe Biden is also urging Congress to act quickly in passing another coronavirus stimulus bill, and Congress has said it will make doing so its first priority. If lawmakers pass legislation that requires the IRS to send out a third stimulus payment, the agency may very well be delayed in processing returns. As a result, refunds could come more slowly than in years past. 

But while the agency might be late in acting, you shouldn't expect that you'll also get more time. Plan to file and pay your taxes by April 15 or request a timely extension to submit your forms so you can avoid penalties that could come from being tardy.