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Tax Refunds Will be Late, Fiscal Cliff to Blame

5:08 PM, Jan 8, 2013   |    comments
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John Waggoner, USA TODAY

You'll be getting your tax refund later than usual this year, and you can thank the congressional debate over the fiscal cliff for that.

The IRS says that it will begin processing individual tax returns on Jan. 30 this year, eight days later than usual. The reason: Programming IRS computers and printing forms and instructions were delayed by congressional wrangling over the fiscal cliff -- a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that briefly became law on Jan. 1.

About 120 million individual taxpayers will be able to file Jan. 30, the IRS says. "We have worked hard to open tax season as soon as possible," IRS acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said in a news release. "This date ensures we have the time we need to update and test our processing systems."

The issue was not higher tax rates for wealthy individuals, because those go into effect for the 2013 tax year. But tax rules that Congress had to extend for 2012 stalled the IRS, because it has to program its computers for those changes. Congress didn't reach an agreement until Jan. 1.

Those with the most common "extenders" -- the Alternative Minimum Tax patch, and deductions for higher education, state and local sales tax, and out-of-pocket expenses for educators -- will be able to file by Jan. 30.

But some people won't be able to start filing until late February or March because of the need for more extensive form and processing systems changes. This group includes people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits, the IRS says.

Because you'll have to file eight days later, will the April 15 filing deadline be pushed back eight days? Not a chance. You'll still have to have your return postmarked by April 15 to avoid late-filing penalties.

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