Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rush to get stimulus payments out quick, the 2021 federal tax filing season will start a little late this year. The IRS said it would begin accepting federal tax returns on February 12, 2021. Normally, tax filing season begins in the second half of January. People working with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners, may prepare their returns now and they will be transmitted to the IRS starting February 12, 2021. To avoid late filing penalties, the deadline for filing your tax return remains April 15, 2021 unless you file for an automatic six-month extension.