Late Tax Season 2013: Getting Ready

Late Tax Season 2013

Thanks to a last-minute congressional response to the so-called “fiscal cliff” crisis, the start of the 2013 tax season has been postponed eight days, the Internal Revenue Service announced last week. The “vast majority” of taxpayers, the IRS says, will be able to begin filing their returns as of Jan. 30, but others could be forced to wait even longer — into February or March.

With all this eleventh hour shuffling, it’s important to understand how the “fiscal cliff deal” — aka the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 — could impact the fast-approaching 2013 tax season for you or your business. Could residential energy credits delay your filing? Will the state and local sales tax provision of the “cliff deal” slow the IRS even further? Here’s everything you need to know to prepare for a late tax season in 2013.

What are the reasons for the late tax season?

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended a number of the “Bush tax cuts” and tax provisions, and it also extended a number of tax credits including the residential energy credits. If your return includes the residential energy credit claim form you will not be able to file until the form receives final approval by the IRS.

Although some of the tax law changes were anticipated by the IRS, the actual form revisions and computer program changes could not occur until the law was actually passed. The implementation of the program and forms changes, now begun, will be finished for returns that don’t include certain forms by the time the service opens itself up to claims — namely, on January 30th.

Who will have to wait?

The IRS will not accept any returns until Jan. 30, 8 days after the original date. Taxpayers who itemize deductions and claim the sales tax deduction should be able to file their returns on this date, but others might wait longer. Taxpayers who choose to claim the extended energy credits, along with the those who claim the depreciation or business credits, will be delayed until late February.

For those individuals, a late tax season isn’t all that bad, says Huffington Post blogger Mark Steber. “These taxpayers may not feel as impacted as those who file in January, because they typically do not file until late February normally.”

Taxpayers able to file Jan 30, while annoyed, might not be feeling the heat yet — but they might when their tax returns are delayed. Some have predicted that the delay could postpone returns for as long as two weeks. As such it’s best to be prepared. The IRS might not be accepting returns until Jan 30, but you can start your tax return today.

How can I prepare for the delayed tax season?

Steber goes on to point out that while the first date for filing might have been pushed back, “the filing deadline of April 15 remains unchanged.” Don’t let a late tax season slow down your filing process, because you’ll need to file by April 15 anyway.

You might start reading up on recent additions to the list of possible claims. One such addition targets the self-employed — up to 300 square feet of home office space can now be written off at $5 per square foot, for a maximum total of $1,500. That’s a welcome change for self employed who have struggled with preparing the home office deduction form in the past.  Although the new method may be easier to calculate, it may not yield the highest deduction.

There’s also the previously mentioned energy credit, as well as new opportunities for students. Of course, navigating the shifting sands of tax law can get convoluted, and that’s why the majority of Americans seek some sort of assistance when filing their taxes. But there’s no harm in self-educating, so here’s here’s our favorite breakdown of the fiscal cliff deal’s changes to the tax code.

You might even view the delayed tax season as extra time to prepare. Between now and and Jan 30, you’ll have ample time to get your ducks in a row — but of course, we all know that’s much, much easier said than done.