IRS will start taking tax returns on Jan. 30

Most taxpayers will be able to file tax returns on Jan. 30 despite the last-minute tax law changes passed by Congress as part of the fiscal cliff deal, the Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday.

The approximately 120 million taxpayers who will be eligible to file on that date includes taxpayers affected by the Alternative Minimum Tax patch (AMT) and those claiming deductions for state and local sales tax, higher education tuition and fees, and educator expenses, the IRS said.

It was feared that one of the many aftershocks of the wrangling over the fiscal cliff would be a significant delay to the start of tax season. That's because the IRS needed to reprogram computers and tax forms to incorporate the late changes to the tax code brokered as part of the fiscal cliff deal.

However, the Jan. 22 start date has only been pushed back by eight days.

Had the delay been longer, it would have put a crinkle in the plans of those who file early in order to get their refunds right away, like those who rely on the refund to pay for Christmas expenses.

In addition, had Congress not taken action on the alternative minimum tax, up to 100 million taxpayers may not have been able to file or collect refunds until late March.

Like most of the fiscal cliff fears, it appears that in the final shakedown, those too were overblown.

“We have worked hard to open tax season as soon as possible,” IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said. “This date ensures we have the time we need to update and test our processing systems.”

For most taxpayers, waiting eight days won't matter much. But those who file more intricate returns will have to wait yet longer. The IRS has not yet announced a date for when they'll start processing forms from taxpayers who claim residential energy credits, property depreciation or general business credits. The agency predicted their systems would be ready for those taxpayers by late February or early March.

It's not the first time tax season got a late start. Changes to the tax law on Dec. 17, 2010, forced the IRS to not accept returns with itemized deductions until that February.