Because Congress failed to act on fiscal cliff tax law revisions until early this month, the Internal Revenue Service has announced it won't accept any federal income tax returns until Jan. 30 and an unspecified later time for more detailed tax returns.
The IRS had planned to begin accepting electronic tax returns on Jan. 22 but that deadline for uncomplicated returns was extended to Jan. 30.
"We have worked hard to open the tax season as soon as possible," IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said. "This date ensures we have time we need to update and test our processing systems."
Miller said people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property, or general business credits will be required to wait even longer before they can file their returns.
Miller estimated it would be late February or into March before these filers and others with complicated returns will be able to file.
The IRS estimates most tax filers - at least 120 million households - will be able to file tax returns on Jan. 30 because their tax returns are not that complicated and do not involve some of the more complicated changes made by Congress to the tax laws.
The IRS will not process paper tax returns before the anticipated Jan. 30 opening date. "There is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date, and taxpayers will receive their tax refunds much faster by using e-file with direct deposit. The best option for taxpayers is to file electronically," Miller said.
More than 80 percent of U.S. taxpayers filed electronically last year.
The delayed opening of the filing season was made necessary when Congress made extensive changes to tax laws requiring changes in tax returns. The final law required the IRS to update forms and instructions and to make critical processing system adjustments.
Although some taxpayers will have to wait into February or March to file their tax returns, the IRS has been able to integrate some changes in the law that will be dealt with and ready to go for paper filers and electronic filers on Jan. 30. These changes include the Alternative Minimum Tax changes as well as the three major "extender" provisions for people claiming the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition and fees deduction, and the educator expenses deduction.
Some changes required the IRS to change forms that will require extensive computer programming and testing of IRS systems. These changes will delay filings until late February or March. The IRS plans to announce later when it will begin accepting tax returns with these deductions. These changes include Form 5695 Residential Energy Credits, Form 4562 Depreciation and Amortization, and Form 3800 General Business Credit.
A full listing of the forms that won't be accepted until later is available on IRS.gov.