The good news is Congress reached a deal on the nation's debt limit and the country did not fall off the so-called fiscal cliff. The bad news is the bill -- called the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 -- passed on January 1st -- a little late for the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has had little time to get new forms prepared and its computer system ready to process returns. Officials first pushed the date to January 30th.
"Now they just came out with a new announcement that says if you have one of 30 specific forms, then they're not going to be able to process your return until the end of February or early March," said Rick Wolfish a CPA with Gallagher, Flynn and Co.
The 30 forms affect mostly businesses and corporations, but Wolfish tried to file a simple individual tax return on January 31st and it too bounced back, so he says it is unclear when individuals will be able to file, as well. The forms he refers to include those for education tax credits, energy efficiency credits and depreciation on rental or other business property. The delay means an even tighter window for businesses, which are required to file by March 15th, a month earlier than individuals.
"For those returns, the IRS is saying end of February, early March is the earliest you can file a return due March 15th. That's only if you have one of these 30 forms, but I think most corporate returns will have at least one those forms," Wolfish said.
Wolfish said the delay can be stressful for individuals who receive refunds each year and rely on that money to cover expenses. And even when they are able to file, their refund may not be returned as quickly as usual. "You know they're going to be getting millions of returns in a 24 hour period, where previously they received those returns throughout the whole month," Wolfish said.
A lot of uncertainty remains as American tax payers and those who prepare their returns work to meet obligations set by Uncle Sam, during a shorter tax filing season.