Early income tax filers should expect to receive their federal income tax return a week later than in past years, due to the Internal Revenue Service pushing the date it will accept returns back one week.
The IRS traditionally accepts returns beginning Jan. 22, but will accept them starting Jan. 30 this year because of Congress' 11th-hour passage of spending and tax legislation to avert the much-feared "fiscal cliff" at the end of 2012.
The legislation is known as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
"We have worked hard to open tax season as soon as possible," Steven Miller, acting commissioner of the IRS, stated in a recent news release. "This date ensures we have the time we need to update and test our processing systems."
The move affects more than 120 million tax filers who typically file early in the annual tax season, which lasts through mid-April.
"It is going to delay the refunds an additional week," Wendy Rhodes, franchise owner of Liberty Tax Service in Kinston, said Monday.
Staffers at Liberty and other tax preparing firms around Kinston and Lenoir County have spent recent weeks preparing for the upcoming filing season, and dealt with uncertainty as the "fiscal cliff" deadline approached.
"We have gotten all of the forms now, but they're just doing things on their end so they're ready when the (electronically filed returns) are sent into them," Rhodes said of the IRS.
Officials with the IRS have encouraged taxpayers in recent years to file their returns electronically in order to receive a refund quicker. The agency offers free filing through its webpage, irs.gov/Filing.
Gene Rybolt of Kinston serves as the local coordinator of the AARP's Tax-Aid program, working with volunteers who help Lenoir County's senior citizens file their tax returns.
Rybolt said the majority of the local clientele has a federal income tax rate of 10 to 23 percent, the "low to moderate-income" taxpayers.
The program is scheduled to begin in early February, but Rybolt said he has not yet received critical information from the IRS, such as guidebooks for the 2012 tax year.
He also said the late acceptance date would push back the time in which seniors could receive their refunds.
"Anyone that's going to get income credit, they file immediately so they can get their money back," he said. "Most of the work that we do in February and March is some type of refunds."
Rhodes said taxpayers can file their returns now as long as they have their W-2, 1099 and other required forms -- the IRS will not "open the window" until Jan. 30, though.
She said filing before Jan. 30 would ensure taxpayers' returns are not backed up with those who file on that day.
Rhodes also encouraged electronic filing "because everything is going electronic."
"You can paper-file your return and they'll process it when they get to it," she said of the IRS.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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