Most taxpayers won't be affected by a recent announcement from the Internal Revenue Service, but some local accountants are holding their breath.
The IRS last week announced it would delay accepting all 2012 tax returns until Jan. 30.
That eight-day postponement won't affect the majority of filers, as many of them can still have their taxes done before the end of the month.
They just can't be sent electronically until Jan. 30.
Accountants expect the IRS will get a flood of returns the first day of tax season, and they're hoping the federal agency's computer network can handle the volume.
"I'm holding my breath," said David Riggs, president of Accounting Services of York in Springettsbury Township.
Prep time: While the delay isn't expected to
cause problems for taxpayers, Riggs said it shrinks preparation time for accountants.
"It cuts two weeks out of our season. They're not extending tax day to April 30; that's still April 15," he said.
Mark Blazek, tax partner at ParenteBeard LLC's York City office, said his firm has made arrangements to accommodate the revised tax season schedule from the IRS.
"We were given enough notice by the IRS and knew tax returns and preparation would need to be accelerated to stay ahead of deadline," he said. The IRS let tax preparers know in mid-December that the delay was coming.
Last-minute deal: Like many Americans, the federal agency was at the mercy of lawmakers debating a fiscal cliff deal. Because that deal was reached in a last-minute fashion, the IRS has had to delay tax season so it can update forms and computer systems to accommodate tax law changes, according to David Stewart, IRS spokesman.
"We had to wait for the tax laws to pass, and then we had to get our systems up and running," he said.
Most affected by the delay will be fiscal year taxpayers, such as companies that have tax deadlines of Jan. 15 or Feb. 15, Blazek said.
Refunds? Another change this year is that the IRS won't be releasing a refund schedule.
"We still expect refunds will be received within 21 days of filing electronically," Stewart said.
He said the IRS is aware many preparers are still crunching the numbers early and will be filing electronically on Jan. 30. The agency doesn't anticipate having any trouble receiving a high volume of returns on the first day of tax season, Stewart said.
Blazek is also hoping there won't be trouble with the IRS system crashing.
"We won't know until then," he said.
The two heavy periods of tax season are right at the beginning and during the last few weeks, Stewart said.
File early? Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, which has 18 locations throughout York County, and H&R Block, which has 15 locations throughout York County, have encouraged taxpayers to have their returns prepared before Jan. 30.
"This IRS delay does not impact our readiness or our ability to work with our clients," said Phillip Sanford, president and CEO of Jackson Hewitt.
H&R Block is also urging customers to file early.
"By preparing the tax return now, taxpayers can have confidence they'll get their tax refund as fast as possible," said Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block.
But there's a chance refunds could be late, according to economists and a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that analyzes policy in a politically balanced way.
If Congress doesn't quickly approve an increase in the debt ceiling, which is the federal borrowing limit, then the U.S. government won't have enough money to pay its bills -- including tax refunds, according to studies released last week.
"The IRS has no comment on whether or not returns will be affected by the debt ceiling. We can't guess on pending legislation," Stewart said.
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When to file
The IRS said the majority of all taxpayers can file starting Jan. 30, both electronically and on paper. This includes returns affected by the late Alternative Minimum Tax, those claiming the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition and fees deduction, and the educator expenses deduction.
Who has to wait until late February and early March? Forms that require more extensive programming changes include those that involve residential energy credits, depreciation and amortization, and the general business credit. A full listing of the forms that won't be accepted until later is available at IRS.gov.
Tax forms are still due April 15.