The IRS announced on Tuesday a delay of one or two weeks in the start of the 2014 filing season as a result of the 16-day government shutdown to allow adequate time for the IRS to prepare and test systems. The return filing start date was originally going to be Jan. 21, 2014, but the IRS said it will now start accepting 2013 individual tax returns no earlier than Jan. 28 and no later than Feb. 4. The IRS says it hopes to shorten the delay and will announce the official start date in December.
The government shutdown came at an inopportune time of year. Most of the work the IRS does to program, test, and deploy its return processing systems is done in the fall. “The adjustment to the start of the filing season provides us the necessary time to program, test, and validate our systems so that we can provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation’s taxpayers,” Danny Werfel, the acting IRS commissioner, said in a news release. “We want the public and tax professionals to know about the delay well in advance so they can prepare for a later start of the filing season.”
No paper returns will be processed before the IRS begins accepting electronic filings.
Despite the delay in the beginning of filing season, the IRS also reiterated that the April 15 tax return filing and payment deadline is statutory and cannot be changed by the IRS but that six-month extensions to file can be obtained by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, electronically or on paper.
The IRS is apparently struggling to catch up after the shutdown. It says it received 400,000 pieces of correspondence during the shutdown, on top of the 1 million items that were already being processed. The IRS is urging taxpayers who need to contact it to wait if it is not urgent or to try to use automated systems on its website.
The IRS announced on Oct. 17 that 2014 renewals of preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs) are also being delayed because of the government shutdown. The IRS will notify current PTIN holders when the renewal season will start.
This will be the second tax season in a row to have a delayed start. Last year’s filing season was significantly delayed because Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, P.L. 112-240, which contained many retroactive provisions, in January 2013 and the IRS needed time to update forms and program and test its processing systems.
—Sally P. Schreiber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a JofA senior editor.