January 31, 2011. By this date you should have received all of the necessary tax documents you need to file your income tax return. For wage-earners, that will be your W-2. If you worked more than one job in the same tax year, you will need one from each employer. If you have not received either your W-2 or your other tax forms by January 31, 2011, call either the payer or your employer and inquire about them.
February 15, 2011. If by this date you still have not received the requisite tax forms, call the IRS for help.
April 18, 2011. This is the last date that your tax return can be post-marked or e-Filed. If you cannot gather the data in time to file a complete tax return by this date, you will need to file for an extension by this date.*The usual date is April 15th. April 18th is a special extension for the tax year of 2010 only.
Like most things in life, tax returns operate on a first-come, first-served basis. The sooner you file your tax return, the sooner the IRS gets it, and the sooner processing on your return will start. By filing your return earlier in the tax season, you get your refund quicker. The earlier you file, the quicker it comes. This applies to both paper and e-Filing. The IRS, although still busy, will be processing significantly fewer returns at the beginning of the tax season (January through April 18). Therefore, not only will you begin the processing earlier, you will get processed faster. This is especially desirable if you are expecting a tax refund.
It is not usually beneficial to wait until the last minute to get started on your tax return, even if you know you will be paying taxes. If you are paying a professional to prepare your taxes, you should be aware that the earlier you get them to the tax preparer, the more likely they are to have ample time to thoroughly research any tax issues or concerns you have, and/or find more deductions that could apply to your situation and save you money. We are not claiming that anybody will give you shoddy work late in the tax season, just that earlier in the tax season you get a calmer, more relaxed tax professional. You should also be aware that if you are planning on having someone else prepare your taxes, waiting until the last minute could easily result in having an extension filed. This is especially the case if your taxes are at all complicated, or anything other than basic. If you are entitled to refund, being forced to file an extension makes it much, much longer in coming.