Fiscal cliff delayed tax filing season, what that means for you

Liberty Tax service preparers in Carolina Forest.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) - We may not have gone over the fiscal cliff, but we're all dealing with one of its consequences. That's the delayed start of the income tax return filing season for millions of Americans across the country.

The Internal Revenue Service pushed back when they'll accept returns to the end of the month, because they had to wait for Congress to finish fiscal cliff talks.

In a press release, the IRS said the change had to be made because "the final law required that the IRS update forms and instructions as well as make critical processing system adjustments before it can begin accepting tax returns."

Tax preparers in our area are in a hurry-up-and-wait situation.

"People are confused. They don't know what's going. What does this mean for our refund? What does this mean for our returns?" said Samantha Slapnik with Liberty Tax Service in Carolina Forest.

Normally this time of year, business would just be starting to pick up, but that's not the case this year.

Instead, Slapnik is busy answering questions from people who want to know what they should do. "But I really don't even know what to expect, because a lot of people have heard that there are delays and they think that they can't file."

Even though the IRS won't start accepting and processing returns until January 30 instead of January 15, Slapnik said that shouldn't stop you from getting forms filled out now.

"It affects us dramatically because people are used to coming in early, filing early. And it's usually the ones that are getting the big refunds. They usually have children they're getting refunds anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000," she explained. "For this time of year at the beach, it's those people who are already struggling to pay their rent, to put groceries on the table and pay their utilities, because most of our industries have scaled down for the season."

Bill Dewolfe isn't rushed to file his taxes, but is concerned for those who depend on the money. "For us, my wife and I, we really don't have to worry too much but there's a lot of people that do have to worry about it and I just think it's unfortunate."

Becky DeFeo sees an advantage in the change. "Probably in the long run it's good for me to have an extra week to get myself together."

The later filing start date also affects your refund.

"For people who are used to filing on January 15, even if they waited the standard 8 to 15 days, they'd have their refund in their hand by the end of January. Now we can't even file until the end of January, and they're looking at mid- to late-February before they get their refunds. That's a month," said Slapnik.

Taxpayers claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits, and complex tax returns will be able to file in late February or into March, according to an IRS press release.

Because state returns depend on federal return information, that means delays for them as well.