CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - As preparations continue for the Jan. 30 opening of the 2013 filing season for most taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service announced Tuesday that processing of tax returns claiming education credits will be delayed until the middle of February.
"All this has come from Congress inaction at the end of the year, waiting until the last minute, the IRS could not approve certain forms until those regulations were finalized," said Certified Public Accountant Cynthia Thomas. "This year it's a blanket delay for everybody, until the end of January and like I said, we don't even know when some of those other returns will be able to be filed."
Taxpayers using Form 8863, Education Credits, can begin filing their tax returns after the IRS updates its processing systems. Form 8863 is used to claim two higher education credits — the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
Tammy Bowers, who has a daughter in college, was surprised to learn about the delay.
"I was shocked, we usually try to prepare our taxes early rather than later, we like to do things to the house with that money," Bowers told WBTV.
The IRS emphasized that the delayed start will have no impact on taxpayers claiming other education-related tax benefits, such as the tuition and fees deduction and the student loan interest deduction. People otherwise able to file and claiming these benefits can start filing Jan. 30.
As it does every year, the IRS reviews and tests its systems in advance of the opening of the tax season to protect taxpayers from processing errors and refund delays. The IRS discovered during testing that programming modifications are needed to accurately process Forms 8863. Filers who are otherwise able to file but use the Form 8863 will be able to file by mid-February. No action needs to be taken by the taxpayer or their tax professional. Typically through the mid-February period, about 3 million tax returns include Form 8863, less than a quarter of those filed during the year.
The IRS remains on track to open the tax season Wednesday (Jan. 30) for most taxpayers. The Wednesday opening includes people claiming the student loan interest deduction on the Form 1040 series or the higher education tuition or fees on Form 8917, Tuition and Fees Deduction. Forms that will be able to be filed later are listed on IRS.gov.
There could also be delays this year when it comes to refunds, according to Cynthia Thomas.
"This year that refund chart has gone," Thomas added. "We have no idea when a person signs a return when it will be deposited, they said two to three weeks, then maybe a couple of days later we'll find out, if we go on line, we'll find out that, well in fact this return has been accepted and the refund should be issued somewhere around this date."
Those delays could impact some local businesses that depend on tax refunds for a spring boost.
Glenda Dyson runs "Just The Thing" in downtown Salisbury. It's a retail store that carries school supplies for teachers and parents.
"We have customers come in all the time looking for things to help their children with end of grade tests, tests that they are taking now, whatever." Dyson told WBTV. "Just the other day I had a customer say 'well I'll come back when I get my tax refund, and purchase those things.' I didn't really think about it a that time, but really, if she has to wait to get her taxes back, it could be April, May, and by then the time to help your child prepare for those tests, we've already missed that window, the time will be over and we'll be taking the tests, whereas if she gets her money she could buy those items and help her child right away."
Cynthia Thomas says she's ready to field calls through the spring from clients wanting to know when the IRS does provide a refund chart so that people will have a better idea of when to expect their refund checks.
For a list of deductions that might delay your return, click here.