The sooner the better: Many getting jump on tax deadline
by Geoff Folsom
February 11, 2013 12:00 AM | 2183 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Late January until the first couple weeks of February is typically a big time for people to start filing taxes, said James Robertson, enrolled agent and master tax advisor with H&R Block’s office on Johnson Ferry Road in east Cobb. The other popular time is, of course, just before the deadline.

While some like to get their taxes filed as soon as possible, in order to get their refund as quickly as they can, they might have to wait a bit longer. The uncertainty over the “fiscal cliff” negotiations in Washington pushed back the date the Internal Revenue Service started processing returns to Jan.30, when it had typically been Jan. 17.

Robertson said this was because the IRS was awaiting word on whether the American Opportunity and Lifelong Learning credits were going to expire.

Though the credits, which can lead to thousands in tax credits, ended up being extended until 2017, some might have to wait several weeks longer to get their refunds, Robertson said. In past years, the IRS typically got taxpayers their refunds within eight to 15 days after filing, but now that can be pushed back.

“While some people will have refunds in by Valentine’s Day, it will be a little bit later in February or possibly in March before they all are accepted,” he said.

With the Affordable Health Care Act scheduled to go into effect in 2014, Robertson said another wrinkle in this year’s tax time is that taxpayers can find out this year how much of a penalty or tax they would be required to pay if they opt not to have health insurance. This is because Obamacare will use their 2012 baseline tax returns to determine their level of subsidy.

Shirley Osborne Vanderbilt, accountant with the Osborne CPA firm in Smyrna, said she regularly educates clients to make sure they are saving enough money to retire.

“They always tell you, basically, you need a million dollars to retire,” she said. “We actually see where they are and how they are on the spreadsheet.”

Some who have retirement plans might be tempted to crack into them early, but preparers say they should be careful. Robertson advises anyone who takes money from a 401k or Individual Retirement Account before they reach age 59 1/2 to make sure they speak with professional first. Up to half the money they take out could end up going to pay taxes on it.

“That still may be a good decision if it is to keep them from foreclosure or bankruptcy, but they need to check first with a tax preparer,” he said.

Vanderbilt said many of her clients who were forced to get extensions from the IRS in 2012 are already filing.

“They don’t want the IRS on their case, they want to make sure they get through with it early,” she said.

In general, Robertson said the earlier you file, the better off you will be.

“That way, if there’s any missing information that can help them (with their return), you have time to find it,” he said.

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