Tax season to start Jan. 20, 2015

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Despite Congress’ procrastination, the Internal Revenue Service will start the 2015 tax filing season on time.

Taxpayers and the IRS alike had been concerned that the late passage of the tax extenders bill — these 55 expired tax provisions weren’t reinstated for the 2014 tax year until Dec. 19 — would mean the tax agency couldn’t get its systems ready for filers.

Not to worry.

Although the extenders were late in being resurrected, there were no major changes to the renewed laws. That means, says IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the upcoming tax-filing season will start as scheduled on Jan. 20, 2015.

On that day, the Tuesday after the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday, the IRS will begin accepting and processing both electronically filed and paper tax returns.

No extenders filing issues

“We have reviewed the late tax law changes and determined there was nothing preventing us from continuing our updating and testing of our systems,” said Koskinen in announcing the good filing news. “Our employees will continue an aggressive schedule of testing and preparation of our systems during the next month to complete the final stages needed for the 2015 tax season.”

Jan. 20 also will mark the opening of Free File, the IRS’ partnership with a consortium of tax software manufacturers through which millions of eligible taxpayers can prepare their taxes online at no cost and, as the name says, e-file them for free.

The program this year was available to taxpayers, regardless of filing status, with adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less. The IRS will release more details about the 2015 Free File program in January. When it does, I expect the income cutoff amount will go up a bit.

On-time filing, slow refunds

Since most U.S. taxpayers get refunds, the commissioner’s analysis is very welcome.

Don’t, however, expect a flawless filing season.

At a press conference earlier this month, Koskinen warned that the latest Congressional cuts to the IRS budget will likely cause some filing problems this tax season.

Less money means the IRS is operating with fewer employees. And that means that the added workloads on existing staff will slow down return processing and the associated issuance of tax refunds.

“Everybody’s return will get processed. But people have gotten very used to being able to file their return and quickly getting a refund,” Koskinen said. “This year we may not have the resources, the people to provide refunds as quickly as we have in the past.”

So get ready to file your return on schedule, but also be prepared to wait a bit longer for your refund.

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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book “The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes” and co-author of the e-book “Future Millionaires’ Guidebook.”