BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Bite your nails until April 18 all you want, slackers, but there's a healthy portion of the taxpaying populace that's just a W-2 form away from ending its annual tax torment -- if only that form would arrive.
The observed celebration of Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C., on April 15 pushes this year's tax deadline back three days, and changes made to the tax code in December mean waiting until Feb. 14 to file for taxpayers making itemized deductions such as mortgage interest and medical expenses; students seeking a college tuition and fees deduction; or teachers looking to deduct expenses. That's cutting it a little close for those lucky enough to limit their tax paperwork to a W-2 and banking interest statement and able to file taxes through one of the short forms -- which describes 5 million of the more than 20 million federal returns handled each year via Intuit's
The problem is that the tax season's early birds are only as punctual as their employers allow them to be. The Internal Revenue Service stipulates that employers need to have their workers' W-2 forms postmarked by no later than Jan. 31, but leaves plenty of room in its code for exceptions and deadline extensions. Kathy Pickering, executive director of H&R Block's
"If an employer is in an unusual situation, which we saw after Hurricane Katrina and some of the other disaster situations -- where some companies even shut down completely and there was nobody to provide the W-2 -- there are some exceptions," Pickering says. "The IRS does allow for substitutions, but it has to be after Feb. 15 and you can reconstruct that information to the best of your ability."Recent economic uncertainty may be inspiring impatience among taxpayers assured a refund. The unemployment rate sits at 9.4% and, with H&R Block putting last year's average refund at $2,900, a lot of newly jobless people are looking for any help they can get. Making W-2 information available online -- as 190,000 companies have by adding 70 million employees' W-2 information to H&R Block's database -- helps get that information out earlier than it can be printed and mailed, but can also create confusion for the Web-wary.