WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service plans to delay the start of the tax-filing season by up to two weeks as a result of the 16-day partial government shutdown that ended last week, the agency announced.
The move could hurt taxpayers who rely on timely refunds to make ends meet, as they would have to wait longer to submit their information for a check.
The original filing season was set to begin Jan. 21. The delay would cause the season to begin no earlier than Jan. 28 and no later than Feb. 4, the IRS said.
The usual April 15 filing deadline will remain in place as a matter of federal law.
The delay is necessary to “allow adequate time to program and test tax-processing systems” after the closing, the agency said in a statement.
The IRS said its preparations help protect against refund fraud, a growing concern among watchdogs. An inspector general’s report released Tuesday revealed that the agency paid out nearly $111 billion in earned-income tax credits over the last 10 years to people who didn’t qualify for them.
The IRS is exploring options to shorten the expected delay and will announce a final decision on the start of the 2014 filing season in December.
The IRS said the shutdown came during the “peak period” for readying its processing systems. The agency implements updates annually to reflect new tax law and to make programming changes, according to the statement.
Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said the preparations are “an intricate, detailed process, and we must take time to get it right.” He added that the delay will give the agency time to “program, test, and validate our systems.”
“Considering the IRS has dealt with much larger changes on far shorter notice over the past years without delay, its reasons are suspect,” said Sarah Swinehart, a spokesman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.).