The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced a one to two week delay to the start of the 2014 income tax filing season due to the agency's need to recover from the recently ended government shutdown.
Saying the 16-day shutdown requires the IRS to reprogram and test its tax processing systems, acting commissioner Danny Werfel said that the original start date of the 2014 filing season was Jan. 21, 2014. Due the delay, however, Werfel projected that the IRS would be able to start accepting and processing 2013 individual tax returns no earlier than Jan. 28 and no later than Feb. 4.
But hold the happy dance, taxpayers, because the IRS also noted that there will be no delay in the April 15, 2014 deadline for filing your tax returns and payments.
The IRS says it hopes to shorten or even eliminate the delay and will announce a final decision on the start of the 2014 filing season in December.
However, should federal budget talks scheduled for January as part of the deal to end the last shutdown force yet another shutdown, the tax filing delay could be even longer. Yikes!
According to Werfel, the shutdown idled about 90% of the IRS' operations at the peak of its 2014 filing season preparations, placing them nearly three weeks behind schedule.
Obviously not wanting his own little Obamacare Healthcare.gov debacle, Werfel said in a press release, "Readying our systems to handle the tax season is an intricate, detailed process, and we must take the time to get it right. The adjustment to the start of the filing season provides us the necessary time to program, test and validate our systems so that we can provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation's taxpayers."
Besides Obamacare-related tax changes, the recent decision by the IRS to treat legally married same-sex couples the same as married heterosexual couples for all income tax purposes will require extensive reprogramming and testing.
The IRS will not process paper tax returns before the start date, so there will be no advantage to filing on paper before then. As always, the IRS reminds taxpayers that filing electronically and using direct deposit remains one of the best ways to get refunds faster.
Also shutdown during the shutdown, the IRS' toll-free telephone help lines and walk-in locations are now experiencing heavy demands. As a result, the IRS is asking taxpayers to wait to call or visit if their issue is not urgent, and to continue to use automated applications on IRS.gov whenever possible.
And, if you've sent the IRS a letter lately don't expect a prompt response, because they received 400,000 pieces of correspondence during the shutdown, on top of the 1 million they were already processing before the shutdown.
"In the days ahead, we will continue assessing the impact of the shutdown on IRS operations, and we will do everything we can to work through the backlog and pent-up demand," Werfel said. "We greatly appreciate the patience of taxpayers and the tax professional community during this period."
Also See: Time for a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights