For millions of taxpayers, filing taxes for 2014 involves some late nights in early April to get their returns in at the last possible moment. But if you have a refund coming, you'll want to file as early as possible. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the IRS has had to delay the beginning of the 2014 tax filing season, meaning that you won't be able to start filing taxes as soon as you might have hoped. Let's look at the details and see when you can expect to file next year.
The shutdown and your taxes
Back in October, the Internal Revenue Service decided to delay the beginning of the 2014 tax season, citing the after-effects of the government shutdown as costing the agency critical time in making the necessary preparations to start accepting returns on its original schedule. Originally, the IRS had looked to begin accepting returns by Jan. 21, but acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel suggested that a one- to two-week delay would result in having people filing taxes for 2014 no earlier than Jan. 28, with a potential start date as late as Feb. 4.
At the time, the IRS said it would announce a final schedule during December. Yet with the month half over already, no schedule is yet available.
The nightmare of 2013
Delays in filing taxes for 2014 aren't all that surprising for many taxpayers, who endured similar problems when they filed their 2012 tax returns earlier this year. Because of the late resolution to the fiscal cliff, which made major modifications to many key tax laws, the IRS imposed an eight-day delay on filers in 2013, starting the tax season for most on Jan. 30.
While 120 million filers were able to start filing their returns on that date, millions of others who had certain special tax issues had to wait much longer. For instance, more complex changes to provisions involving education credits, residential energy credits, property depreciation, and general business credits led to more difficulty for the IRS. As a result, those claiming education credits had to wait until the middle of February to file. Returns with depreciation deductions had to wait until Feb. 10, and those with energy or general business credits couldn't file until March 4.
This year's delays shouldn't be nearly as long. The changes to tax laws aren't as extensive as they were last year, thus requiring fewer modifications to forms and publications. Yet even a delay of a week or two in getting refunds could have an impact on retailers that count on refund-driven consumption, adding to the impact that the government shutdown has already had on spending.
No matter when tax season starts, the best practices for filing taxes in 2014 remain the same. Using more efficient methods like electronic filing and direct deposit will get you your refund as soon as possible. The IRS has said that it anticipates putting the vast majority of refunds in taxpayers' hands within 21 days of filing. Hopefully that should be fast enough to satisfy most of the millions of taxpayers who will receive refunds this year.
Be smart about your taxes
Having to wait for filing taxes in 2014 is annoying, but there are other ways you can try to make your tax season go more smoothly. In our brand-new special report "How You Can Fight Back Against Higher Taxes," The Motley Fool's tax experts run through what to watch out for in doing your tax planning this year. With its concrete advice on how to cut taxes for decades to come, you won't want to miss out. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.