Q&A with David Stell
Tax filing starts Jan. 30 for most
Q: The IRS has announced the time for filing 2012 federal individual income tax returns will begin this year on Jan. 30. The filing period usually begins Jan. 2 — why later this year?
A: Tax law changes made by Congress under the American Taxpayer Relief Act were enacted on Jan. 2. The legislation has major implications for the IRS, and a direct impact on this year's tax filing season. Once the changes became law, the IRS began updating tax forms, and must complete programming and testing of its processing systems before being ready to accept tax return filings.
Q: Will all taxpayers then be able to file beginning Jan. 30?
A: The vast majority will. The IRS expects that more than 120 million households will be able to file beginning Jan. 30, including those affected by the AMT, as well as those claiming the “extender” deductions for sales taxes, tuition and educator expenses. Others who claim certain tax benefits and provisions, such as residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits, will be able to file beginning in late February or March because of the need for more extensive form and processing systems changes. A full listing of forms the IRS will not accept until later will be posted on the IRS website, irs.gov. The IRS will soon announce a specific date for these taxpayers.
Q: What about taxpayers who don't believe they were affected by the late legislation and are ready to file now? Can they file as soon as they want to?
A: The IRS will not process any paper-filed tax returns before Jan. 30, and will not accept e-file electronically filed tax returns before that same date. There's no advantage to filing on paper before Jan. 30, and taxpayers will receive their refunds much faster by using e-file and choosing direct deposit. Last year, more than 80 percent of taxpayers used e-file.
Q: What's the best source of information about the tax filing season, including information about e-file and Free File electronic tax filing, as well as where and how to get free tax help?
A: That's easy — the IRS website, www.irs.gov, contains all this and more, and is the most up-to-date source about federal tax information, tax returns and refunds, as well as tax filing in general.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER