When Can I File My Tax Return?

tax form changes will delay returnsIf you’re expecting a refund, you want to know just how soon you can file. For most people, the earliest day that the IRS will begin accepting e-filed returns is January 14th, that’s this coming Friday. It’s important to remember that you’re not allowed to file until you have all of your W2s and other income documents. Your employer isn’t required to send them out until January 31st, but if you receive them early then it’s okay to file.

Some people though, will not be able to file their tax returns until mid to late February because the IRS still has to change some forms due to the new tax legislation that was recently passed.

The more common troublesome forms are:

Schedule A: yep, if you itemize your deductions, then you’ll have to wait to file. The big hold up here is that Congress reinstated the state and local sales tax deduction which had previously been eliminated. Because that goes on the Schedule A, everyone who files a Schedule A will have to wait.

Higher Education tuition and fees deduction (Form 8917): This was a tax deduction that was also phased out but reinstated in the tax deal. This does not affect filing your return if you qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (that’s what used to be called the Hope Credit but was changed last year) or the Lifetime Learning Credit.

Educator Expense deduction: That’s not even a whole form, that just line 23 of your 1040. What I find most amusing about this is that I get to see draft copies of IRS forms before they’re published. In November, the 1040 form still had a space for the educator expense deduction because the folks at the IRS kept thinking that Congress would reinstate that one. Well, nothing happened on that and there wasn’t any discussion about extending it so they finally pulled it in preparation for filing season. It was the right thing to do at the time. Now it’s back and the form has to be changed.  (If you meet an IRS IT technician in a bar, buy him or her a drink.  You’ll recognize them by the chunks of hair missing from their heads because they’ve been pulling it out from all the stress of crazy tax law changes.)

Just because you can’t actually file your return yet doesn’t mean you can’t have it prepared and ready to go once the IRS gives the okay.  Although it’s normally illegal for a tax preparer to “stockpile” income tax returns,  the IRS is allowing preparers to hold client returns until the IRS is ready to receive them.  And of course, if you’re preparing your own return, you can finish it and hold it until the release is given.  I’ll be posting that date as soon as I know it.

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