Last-Minute Changes Stall Tax Returns


NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Americans might actually have a legitimate reason to delay filing their tax returns this year. Unfortunately, that only applies to those expecting a refund.

Taxpayers affected by three recently reinstated deductions will need to wait until mid- to late-February to file their individual tax returns, the Internal Revenue Service said in late December, as Congress’s last-minute changes to did not give the IRS time to reprogram its processing systems. 

The White House’s deal to extend the Bush tax cuts in return for extended unemployment benefits reinstated itemized deductions for higher-income residents and created college tuition and educator expenses’ tax credits, and was not signed into law until Dec. 17. 

“The majority of taxpayers will be able to fill out their tax returns and file them as they normally do,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a statement. “We will do everything we can to minimize the impact of recent tax law changes on other taxpayers. The IRS will work through the holidays and into the New Year to get our systems reprogrammed and ensure taxpayers have a smooth tax season.”

Those affected by the delays include:

  • Taxpayers claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions include mortgage interest, charitable deductions, medical and dental expenses, as well as state and local taxes. It also includes the state and local general sales tax deduction extended in the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, which intends to help those living in areas without state and local income taxes.
  • Taxpayers claiming the Higher Education Tuition and Fees Deduction. This deduction for parents and students covers up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid to a post-secondary institution and is claimed on Form 8917. The IRS said there will be no delays for the millions of parents and students who claim other education credits, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit.
  • Taxpayers claiming the Educator Expense Deduction. This  is for educators who teach kindergarten through grade 12 and claim out-of-pocket classroom expenses of up to $250.

The IRS advises those who are eligible for the affected refunds to start working on their tax returns, but not submit them until the systems are ready to process the changes in February. A specific date will be announced by the IRS soon.

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