The 2014 tax-filing season, which was scheduled to begin on January 21 but was delayed because the IRS could not program and test its tax-processing systems during the sixteen-day federal government shutdown in October, will now begin on January 31, according to the agency.
“Our teams have been working hard throughout the fall to prepare for the upcoming tax season,” acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said in a written statement on December 18. “The late January opening gives us enough time to get things right with our programming, testing, and systems validation. It’s a complex process, and our bottom-line goal is to provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation’s taxpayers.”
The deadline to file tax returns is still April 15, 2014 – a date set by federal statute. Taxpayers can request an automatic six-month extension to file their tax return using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, which can be filed electronically or on paper.
The 2014 start date is only one day later than the opening day of the 2013 filing season, which started on January 30, 2013, following tax law changes made by Congress on January 1 under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), the IRS noted. The extensive set of ATRA changes affected many 2012 tax returns, which led to the late January opening.
This past October’s government shutdown temporarily closed about 90 percent of the IRS’s operations and set the agency back nearly three weeks in its timetable for being ready to start the 2014 tax season.
The IRS stated in late October that the shutdown occurred during the peak time the agency uses to prepare its systems for the upcoming filing campaign. More than fifty IRS systems have to be programmed, tested, and deployed so they can handle the processing of approximately 150 million tax returns.
Also, there are additional training, programming, and testing demands on IRS systems this year in order to provide additional refund fraud and identity theft detection and prevention. IRS processes, applications, and databases must also be updated annually to reflect changes to tax laws, business processes, and programming in time for the start of the 2014 filing season, the agency noted.
Even though updating its core systems is a year-round process, the IRS reported it conducts the majority of the work beginning in the fall of each year.
Several options are available to help taxpayers prepare for the 2014 filing season and get their tax refunds as easily as possible, the IRS noted. The agency is recommending that taxpayers file their returns electronically using e-file or Free File with the direct deposit option to receive their refunds faster. New year-end tax planning information was added to the IRS website this week.
Additionally, many software companies are expected to begin accepting tax returns in January and hold those returns until the IRS systems open on January 31. The IRS emphasized it will not process any tax returns before the filing season officially begins.
“There is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date,” the IRS noted.