IRS Offers Advice for Coping with Delayed Tax Season

The Internal Revenue Service provided advice to taxpayers Wednesday on dealing with the late opening of tax season on January 30 that could also prove helpful to tax preparers.

For the first time this tax season, the “Where’s My Refund?” tool will provide personalized refund timelines for taxpayers.

The IRS noted that it would begin processing most individual income tax returns on Jan. 30 after updating its forms and completing the programming and testing of its processing systems. The IRS contended that it had anticipated many of the tax law changes made by Congress under the American Taxpayer Relief Act, but the final law requires some changes before the IRS can begin accepting tax returns.

The IRS reiterated that it will not process paper or electronic tax returns before the Jan. 30 opening date, so there is no advantage to filing on paper before then (see IRS Delays Tax Season until End of January). Using e-file is the best way to file an accurate tax return, the IRS insisted, and using e-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get a refund.

Many major software providers are accepting tax returns in advance of the Jan. 30 processing date, the IRS noted. These software providers will hold onto the returns and then electronically submit them after the IRS systems open. The IRS advised taxpayers who use commercial software to check with their provider for specific instructions about when they will accept your return. Software companies and tax professionals then send the returns to the IRS, but the timing of the refunds is determined by IRS processing, which starts Jan. 30.

After the IRS starts processing returns, it expects to process refunds within the usual timeframes. Last year, the IRS issued more than nine out of 10 refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days, and it expects the same results in 2013. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, some tax returns will require additional review and take longer. To help protect against refund fraud, the IRS has put in place stronger security filters this filing season.

After taxpayers file a return, they can track the status of the refund with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, which is available on the IRS.gov Web site. This year, instead of an estimated date, the Where’s My Refund? tool will give people an actual personalized refund date after the IRS processes the tax return and approves the refund.

“Where’s My Refund?” will be available for use after the IRS starts processing tax returns on Jan. 30. The IRS also provided several tips for using “Where’s My Refund?” after it becomes available on Jan. 30:

• Initial information will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after mailing a paper return.

• The system updates every 24 hours, usually overnight. There’s no need to check more than once a day.

• “Where’s My Refund?” provides the most accurate and complete information that the IRS has about the refund, so there is no need to call the IRS unless the web tool says to do so.

• To use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, taxpayers need to have a copy of their tax return for reference. Taxpayers will need their social security number, filing status and the exact dollar amount of the refund they are expecting.

For the latest information about the Jan. 30 tax season opening, tax law changes and tax refunds, visit IRS.gov.

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