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January 9, 2013

'Cliff' could delay area tax returns

A week after politicians in Washington patted each other on the back for cutting a last-minute deal that ends the “fiscal cliff,” local tax preparers say they are getting headaches over delays by the federal government in coming up with the tax forms needed to get the 2013 tax season started.

The Internal Revenue Service confirmed Tuesday afternoon that it won’t be able to start processing any tax returns until Jan. 30 — about two weeks later than it usually begins to handle returns.

The 11th-hour agreement hatched by Congress and the Obama administration to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff has left the tax preparation industry without a clear vision of what will be contained in the new tax forms that still have to be produced, local tax accountant George L. McLain said.

“We really don’t know how this is going to effect people because we haven’t seen it yet in black and white,” said McLain, who runs a tax preparation service with offices in Sidney, Oneonta and Bainbridge.

The IRS said in a statement that even with the delay the “vast majority” of tax filers — approximately 120 million households — “should be able to start filing tax returns starting Jan. 30.”

The agency admitted it still hasn’t figured out exactly when the remaining households will be able to start filing, However, agency officials speculated that the processing of more complex returns will begin in late February or March “because of the need for more extensive form and processing systems changes.”

“There are several forms affected by the late legislation that require more extensive programming and testing of IRS systems,” the agency said. It said an announcement of when the new forms will be made available to the public will be issued “in the near future.”

Rick Dickson, co-owner of Liberty Tax Service in Oneonta, said the delay in processing forms by the IRS will lead to tax refund checks being mailed out later than many taxpayers had anticipated.

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