Taxpayers must still file their returns by April 15, the service said. But the IRS will not be accepting returns until Jan. 31, 10 days after it had originally planned.
The delay will allow the service to test its tax programming systems before taxpayers start filing their returns, the IRS said in a news release.
“About 90 percent of IRS operations were closed during the shutdown, with some major work streams closed entirely during this period, putting the IRS nearly three weeks behind its tight timetable for being ready to start the 2014 filing season,” the news release said.
The 2014 tax filing season will begin one day later than the 2013 season, the IRS noted. The 2013 season was delayed after the service needed to adjust to changes from Congress such as ending some Bush-era tax cuts and increasing capital gains tax rates, which the service wrote in the news release.
Kathy Smith, owner of Heflin Accounting Service, said the public is paying for the back-to-back delays as the IRS in December was still approving its forms for this upcoming tax season.
“I’ve been doing this since 1984,” Smith said. “I’ve never seen things this disorganized with the IRS.”
Still, Smith said taxpayers have to be ready for the season, and she offered some tips to help them along the way.
First off, Smith said don’t try to file paper tax forms before Jan. 31. Banks and businesses are required to have their forms to taxpayers by the end of January, she said. So, filing and mailing a paper before then may mean filing an amended return later.
“The first return can’t be processed until Jan. 31 anyway,” she said.
In addition, people have until Apr. 15, 2014, to make donations to their individual retirement accounts to be included on their 2013 tax return, Smith said. Charitable donations though must be made by Dec. 31 to be used on this year’s tax return, she added.
Joan Sanders, owner of Sanders and Associates in Anniston and Oxford, said to itemize non-monetary donations, taxpayers must have a list of items donated and a signed receipt from the charitable agency.
“Take pictures of what you’re taking in,” Sanders suggested. “So you can prove the quality.”
On the IRS website, there is a list of values the service will allow for donated items such as shirts or pants, Sanders added.
For those taxpayers who need to file an extension, Smith said they must remember the extension is for filing the return, not an extension to pay taxes. To file an extension, taxpayers need to estimate what their tax payment might be and pay that by April 15, Smith said.
Smith also suggested that taxpayers educate themselves. Go to IRS.gov and read up on the tax issues, she said.
“Don’t be afraid to call and ask a question,” Smith said.
Many taxpayers may be better off going with a paid preparer, she said. The tax code is complicated, and it’s difficult for a novice to keep up with all the changes year to year, Smith said.
“D.I.Y.-ers often cheat themselves,” Smith said.
Taxpayers who choose a paid preparer should ask friends for recommendations and be sure to go with a professional, said Robin Johns, who works for Smith. The fee should be a secondary concern, Smith added.
“Don’t bargain shop on your taxes,” Johns said.
Throughout 2014, Sanders suggested the public carefully document all medical expenses. With Obamacare going into effect, many people who have never had medical insurance before will be paying for it in 2014. The cost of the insurance, as well as mileage to and from the doctor, co-pays, prescription medicines and medical devices including glasses or hearing aids are all deductible, Sanders said. Taxpayers can also deduct the cost of caregiving and nursing home expenses, she said. Home owners can even deduct expenses for renovating a house to accommodate someone with a disability (a note from a doctor is required), Sanders added.
She said taxpayers will have to subtract 10 percent of their adjusted gross income from the expenses to determine the deductible amount, however. That’s up from this tax season when taxpayers only have to deduct 7.5 percent, Sanders said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.