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American Taxpayer Relief Act causes IRS to delay start of filing season

January 11, 2013

A majority of taxpayers won’t be able to file their 2012 federal income tax returns until Jan. 30 to give the Internal Revenue Service time to update forms and instructions that changed as a result of the American Taxpayer Relief Act.

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act at the beginning of January to avert the fiscal cliff. President Barack Obama signed the act into law Jan. 2.

In addition to updating forms and instructions, the IRS will have to complete programming and tests on its processing systems before taxpayers will be permitted to file, according to an IRS news release.

A majority of taxpayers — about 120 million households — will be able to start filing Jan. 30, the IRS said. The remaining 20 million will have to wait until late February or March because of more extensive form and processing systems changes.

The taxpayers in the later filing group include those claiming residential energy credits, and depreciation of property or general business credits.

The Jan. 30 filing date is eight business days later than people were able to start filing last year, according to an IRS spokesman who wished to remain anonymous. In previous years, filing times varied based of the date when e-file, an electronic filing system, became available. Paper filers typically could file as soon as they received their W-2s. 

The IRS will not process paper tax returns before Jan. 30, the IRS said. Therefore, there is no advantage to filing paper returns earlier than that date.

The IRS said it originally planned to open electronic filing Jan. 22, but will wait until Jan. 30

More than 80 percent of taxpayers filed electronically last year, the IRS said. Taxpayers receive refunds much faster by filing electronically using e-file with direct deposit.

Taxpayers still will be required to file their taxes by the standard April 15 deadline, but people can ask for an extension if they need more time, according to the IRS.

More information can be obtained at IRS.gov.

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— Dan Dearth

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