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IRS changes 2011 filing date thanks to Emancipation Day

January 14, 2011 Areawide, Business No Comments

IRS LOGO-HTNPYou may not be familiar with the holiday, but because it falls on Friday, April 15 this year, we procrastinators have a few extra days to file our 2010 tax returns.

Earlier this week, the Internal Revenue Service announced that in 2011, taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18 to file tax returns because of Emancipation Day, which is celebrated in the District of Columbia (and elsewhere in the U.S.).

Did you know that by law, District of Columbia holidays affect tax deadlines the same way that federal holidays do?

So, taxpayers will have a little more time to file this year.

And if you request an extension to file, you will have until Oct. 17, 2011 to file.

The IRS expects to receive more than 140 million individual tax returns this year, with most of those filed by the April 18 deadline.

Have you tried e-file?

The IRS also continues to encourage taxpayers to use e-file as “the best way to ensure accurate tax returns and get faster refunds.”

Recently, the IRS also reminded taxpayers that this year, it is no longer mailing tax forms. And in December 2010, the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services made the same decision.

According to the CT Department of Revenue Service, this last filing season only 8 percent of individual returns were from the booklets that were mailed. In other words, only 125,000 of the 1.6 million returns came from the mailed booklets.

Of those 1.6 million, 1.2 million filed their taxes online. The others used forms they downloaded or picked up at the library, town hall or other locations.

Are you a tax preparer?

The IRS also reminds tax professionals preparing returns for a fee that this is the first year that they must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

Tax return preparers should register immediately using the new PTIN sign-up system available through www.IRS.gov/taxpros.

Who must wait to file?

With some exceptions, the IRS began accepting e-file and Free File returns today (Jan. 14, 2011).

Some taxpayers, however, will have to hold off submitting their return because of tax law changes made only weeks ago.

Tax law changes enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama in December 2010 mean some people need to wait until mid- to late February to file their tax returns, in order to give the IRS time to reprogram its processing systems.

Some taxpayers – including those who itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A – will need to wait (whether you’re filing online or sending the paperwork in the mail).

This includes taxpayers affected by any of three tax provisions that expired at the end of 2009 and were renewed by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 enacted Dec. 17, 2010.

Those who need to wait to file until late February include:

  • Taxpayers claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A.  Itemized deductions include mortgage interest, charitable deductions, medical and dental expenses, as well as state and local taxes. In addition, itemized deductions include the state and local general sales tax deduction that was also extended and which primarily benefits people living in areas without state and local income taxes.
  • Taxpayers claiming the Higher Education Tuition and Fees Deduction. This deduction for parents and students – covering up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid to a post-secondary institution – is claimed on Form 8917. However, the IRS emphasized that there will be no delays for millions of parents and students who claim other education credits, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit extended last month and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
  • Taxpayers claiming the Educator Expense Deduction. This deduction is for kindergarten through grade 12 educators with out-of-pocket classroom expenses of up to $250. The educator expense deduction is claimed on Form 1040, Line 23 and Form 1040A, Line 16.

Unemployment and Job Creation

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act also extend those deductions for 2011 and a number of other tax deductions and credits for 2011 and 2012 such as:

  • the American Opportunity Tax Credit and
  • the modified Child Tax Credit, which help families pay for college and other child-related expenses.

The Act also provides various job creation and investment incentives including 100 percent expensing and a two-percent payroll tax reduction for 2011.  However, those changes have no effect on when to file.

The IRS will announce a specific date in the near future when it can start processing tax returns affected by the recent tax law changes. (Look for updates at www.IRS.gov )

In the meantime, the IRS says, there’s no reason why you cannot get those returns ready. Just don’t send them, yet.

Get help filing your tax forms

Taxpayers with questions can look for answers on the IRS website at www.IRS.gov, call the toll-free number or visit a taxpayer assistance center.

If your income is $49,000 or less, you probably can use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program for free tax preparation and, in many cases, free electronic filing.

Individuals age 60 and older can take advantage of free tax counseling and basic income tax preparation through Tax Counseling for the Elderly (check with your senior center or local social services office).

IRS Free File provides options for free brand-name tax software or forms that can be completed online, plus free electronic filing.

Everyone can use Free File to prepare a federal tax return. There’s no income limit for Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, which also includes free e-filing.

Taxpayers who make $58,000 or less can choose from approximately 20 commercial software providers.

Check for a refund

You can track the status of your refund by using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, located on the front page of www.IRS.gov.

Taxpayers can generally get information about their refunds 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of their e-filed returns, or three to four weeks after mailing a paper return.

Taxpayers need to provide the following information from their tax returns: Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and filing status, and the exact whole dollar amount of your anticipated refund.

If the U.S. Postal Service returns the taxpayer’s refund to the IRS, the individual may be able to use “Where’s My Refund?” online to change the address the IRS has on file.

Also, taxpayers may complete a Form 8822, Change of Address, and send it to the address shown on the form. You can download Form 8822 from www.IRS.gov or order it by calling 800-TAX-FORM.

Generally, taxpayers whose refunds somehow got lost in the shuffle can file an online claim for a replacement check, if more than 28 days have passed since the IRS confirms it was mailed.

Oh, and if you happen to have an overseas account, the IRS cautions you to report that information in an honest and timely fashion. “The IRS has made important strides at stopping tax avoidance using offshore accounts,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.

Posted Jan. 14, 2011

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