WASHINGTON (Dec. 27) -- More than 3 million people will have to wait until February to get their tax refunds because of Congress' late fix to the alternative minimum tax, the IRS said Thursday.
Congress put a one-year freeze on growth of the alternative minimum tax last week, shielding many middle- and upper-middle income taxpayers from first exposure to the tax. But Congress' late action means the Internal Revenue Service won't be able to start processing five AMT-related forms until February, delaying potential refunds for those people until that month.
Between 3 million and 4 million people filed in January of last year using those forms, with many of those people expecting a refund, the IRS said.
The average refund in 2007 was $2,324, the agency said.
"We regret the inconvenience the delay will mean for million of early tax filers, especially those expecting a refund," acting IRS Commissioner Linda Stiff said.
As many as 13.5 million people will have to wait until February 11 to start filing with the five AMT-related forms, but the IRS said filing patterns show only between 3 million to 4 million of those people file during the early tax season anyhow.
The IRS was able to reprogram its computers to begin accepting the seven other AMT-related forms when the tax season opens in early January.
But the tax packages that will start arriving in the mail beginning after New Year's Day were printed in November, before the AMT fixes were approved by Congress. The IRS has created a special section on its Web site, http://www.irs.gov, with updated copies of AMT forms.
The alternative minimum tax was passed in 1969 and was aimed at about 155 very wealthy families who used deductions to avoid paying any federal income tax. The AMT disallows certain deductions and credits. It was not adjusted for inflation; as a result, over the years it has hit a growing number of middle-income taxpayers.
More than 4 million were subject to it in the 2006 tax year. Without the congressional fix, more than 20 million families would have been faced with an extra $2,000 tax hit on average.
The five forms affected by the delay are:
Form 8863, Education Credits.
Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits.
Form 1040A's Schedule 2, Child and Dependent Care Expenses for Form 1040A Filers.
Form 8396, Mortgage Interest Credit and
Form 8859, District of Columbia First-Time Homebuyer Credit.
Any taxpayer using those forms will have to wait until February to file their taxes, the agency said. The IRS will begin processing those forms on February 14, and the first refunds for those people will start going out 10 to 14 days later.
More than 100 million people got refunds during the last tax season.