Millions of Americans count on getting their tax refunds as soon as possible after the New Year begins. But thanks to Congress, ASAP wasn't all that soon this year. However, though the recent tax-law changes raised some concerns about delays in filing and getting refunds, the IRS has worked through the changes and is ready to start taking all of our tax returns.
Back in late December, it looked as though the vast majority of taxpayers might be in for long waits before getting their refunds. As the fiscal-cliff debate rolled on until after the New Year's deadline, the IRS warned that 100 million taxpayers could face delays as a result of potential major changes to the tax laws.
Fortunately, the deal that was reached avoided some of the biggest potential changes. Most important, it set in place a permanent inflation adjustment for the alternative minimum tax.
Instead of an estimated 30 million taxpayers getting pulled into the AMT framework (which was originally intended to ensure the wealthy couldn't dodge their entire tax bills), the fiscal-cliff deal raised AMT exemption amounts and indexed them to inflation for future years. Because the IRS had predicted those changes, that removed one big task from its to-do list for the 2013 tax season, and tens of millions of taxpayers who might have suffered delays didn't.
Which Changes Caused Delays?
Still, plenty of changes did require IRS action that forced taxpayers taking advantage of special provisions to wait before filing.
Students were among those affected: Taxpayers claiming the Lifetime Learning or American Opportunity Tax Credits had to wait until mid-February before they were able to file. Although other perks, including student loan interest and higher-education tuition deductions, were available earlier, the credits often produce larger tax savings. Similarly, changes to laws governing business property required taxpayers to wait if they claimed depreciation deductions.
As March began, some taxpayers were still waiting for the IRS to provide what they needed. The forms needed to claim the residential energy credit for various energy-efficient home improvements, as well as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and general business credits for employers, weren't expected to be ready until early in March.
Unfortunately, until you file your return, you can't start counting down the days until you get your refund. Filing your tax return electronically and choosing to have your refund direct deposited can speed up the arrival of your refund, but for many who've already had to suffer through these delays, every extra day is an additional hardship that they're hoping will end soon.
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