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Reasons to Still File Your 2021 Federal Tax Return

Some taxpayers are not required to file federal tax returns, generally because their income falls below the filing threshold. However, choosing not to file a return may mean missing out on a tax refund. Therefore, the IRS urges all Americans who may qualify for a tax refund to file a 2021 return by the extension filing deadline of October 17, 2022 or earlier if possible.

Even if you had no tax withheld from your pay in 2021 and made no estimated tax payments, you may still be entitled to a refund if you qualify for certain federal tax credits, including:

  • Recovery Rebate Credit: If you were eligible for a third economic impact payment (EIP, also called a stimulus payment) in 2021, but did not receive it or got less than the full amount, you may be able to claim this credit.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Working taxpayers who had $57,414 or less in 2021 income may qualify for this credit, depending on their filing status and number of dependents. For those with dependents, the credit amount can be as high as $6,728.

Both of these credits are fully refundable, meaning that if you qualify, you may receive the credit as an IRS refund even if you owe no tax for 2021.

  • Child Tax Credit (CTC): You may be eligible for this credit if you had a qualifying child of age 17 or younger in 2021.
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC): You may qualify for this credit if you, your spouse, or your dependent was enrolled at least half time at an institution of higher learning (such as a college, university or trade school) in 2021.

The CTC is fully refundable, while the AOTC is partially refundable.

You may also be eligible for a federal tax refund if your employer(s) withheld taxes from your paychecks, or if you made estimated tax payments at any time in 2021.


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