Each year, the deadline to file taxes comes on April 15, or on the next business day if the 15th is a holiday or falls on the weekend. That means you're required to file your returns for the 2020 tax year by April 15, 2021.

Some people don't want to wait until the last minute, though. In fact, many Americans prefer to file their taxes as soon as they're able to do so. If that sounds like your situation, here's what you need to know about how early your returns can be submitted to the IRS. 

1040 form with calculator and pen sitting on it.

Image source: Getty Images.

How soon can you file your 2020 taxes?

The IRS has not yet announced exactly what day tax season will open for the 2020 year. The announcement is expected to come either in late December or in early January.

Based on precedent, however, it is likely they will not begin accepting returns until the end of January. In fact, for the 2019 tax year, the first day that you could submit your taxes was January 27, 2020

However, while your returns may be accepted as early as the last week of January, you can't file until you've received the necessary tax documents to complete your returns. These could include:

  1. A W-2 from your employer detailing your earnings
  2. 1099 forms if you earn income outside a traditional employment relationship (such as from working in the gig economy)
  3. A 1098-E form if you want to deduct student loan interest
  4. A 1098-T form if you plan to claim a Lifetime Learning Credit or the American Opportunity Tax Credit 
  5. A 1098 form detailing your mortgage interest paid if you plan to deduct it
  6. A 1095(A) form if you have health insurance purchased through a marketplace under the Affordable Care Act

There may also be other forms as well, depending upon your specific tax situation. Many of them must be mailed to you by January 31. As a result, you may not be ready to file your 1040 forms until February at the earliest if you're still waiting for your paperwork -- even if the IRS begins accepting returns sooner. 

What are the benefits of filing early?

If you have the information that you need, there are plenty of good reasons to file your taxes as soon as the IRS starts accepting returns at the end of January. 

Filing early allows you to get your hands on a refund ASAP. It could also help protect your identity. Submitting your forms right away means that if a scammer tries to file a phony return with your information, it will be rejected since your real one will have already been processed.

For 2020, there may also be another reason to file early. Most Americans received coronavirus stimulus payments valued at up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per eligible dependent. However, some who were eligible didn't get them because the IRS used 2018 or 2019 tax data to determine eligibility.

The IRS may not have had your information if you didn't file a return in either of these two years. Or your past returns may have shown your income was too high to get a payment -- even if you're now earning less and have become eligible for one. These stimulus checks were actually an advance on a tax credit, though. Filing your return would enable you to claim the credit if you were entitled to it but didn't get it. 

If any of these reasons for early filing applies to you, check the IRS website at the beginning of the year to see exactly when tax season opens up so you can submit your return ASAP.