Expect delays filing taxes
JANESVILLE If you're feeling a little unsure about sorting through paperwork to file your 2012 tax return and get 2013 off to an organized start, you're not alone.
"This tax season has been very unusual," said Jim Bartlett, the owner of three Liberty Tax franchises in Rock County.
It started Jan. 3 when Congress passed revisions to the 2012 budget, Bartlett said. That left the IRS working backward to make changes before the agency could start accepting tax returns, he said.
The taxes themselves didn't change much between 2011 and 2012, Bartlett said. Most taxpayers will see little difference between their returns those years, he said.
The process of filing returns and distributing refunds has changed, Bartlett said.
One noticeable change is the timing, Bartlett said. The IRS didn't start accepting 2012 tax returns until Jan. 30. That's about two weeks later than normal, he said.
Some forms are delayed even longer. For example, folks who plan to file for education credits should expect to wait until mid-February at the soonest, Bartlett said. People who want to claim a depreciation credit also will have to wait, he said.
Those delays can cause challenges for professional tax preparers, said Pete Wautlet, a partner with Baker Tilly in Janesville. Returns that are complete can pile up until the IRS is ready to accept them, he said.
Another change in the 2012 tax return filing process is in the way the IRS worded the explanation of how long it would take to get refunds, Bartlett said. In past years, returns were filed weekly on Fridays, and refunds were expected within eight to 15 days, he said.
This year, the IRS has said simply the refund will be sent in less than 21 days, he said.
Looking forward into 2013, most of the changes will affect high-income families, Bartlett said.
"For the proverbial 98 percent, the Bush tax cuts were locked in place," Bartlett said. "Those folks earning more than $250,000 or $400,000, they do get some significant rate increases in 2013."
Here are a few things Bartlett and Wautlet think everyone should keep in mind as they prepare their returns:
"There's no getting around the fact that the preparation of tax returns is complicated," Wautlet said. "This year it has been challenging keeping up. We continue getting highlights and then keep digging a little deeper to make sure we have a thorough understanding."
-- Strongly consider contributing to a retirement account such as an IRA or Roth IRA, Wautlet said.
Bartlett agreed and went so far as to say that a "kind of neat" opportunity is available for low-income filers.
People with qualifying incomes can make contributions to eligible IRA's and get a credit of up to $1,000 for single people or $2,000 for married people.
"That's significant," Bartlett said.
A single person who makes up to $27,750 is qualified for the program that is intended to encourage low-income filers to save for retirement.
Through April 15, filers can get the credit on their 2012 returns, Bartlett said.
"If you get a nice refund, go out and put it into an IRA for 2012 … It increases your refund."
-- Make sure you have receipts for all charitable contributions, Wautlet said. You must have a receipt to claim a donation of more than $250.
"Just a canceled check isn't good enough if it's more than $250," Wautlet said.
-- Don't wait to file your return if you owe money and aren't able to pay right away, Wautlet said. You can file in February and schedule a debit payment or use a voucher to pay later.
"You don't have to hold up filing just because you have a balance due," he said.