Last week the Internal Revenue Service announced it would open the 2014 tax filing season and begin accepting and processing tax returns on Jan. 31.
The delay in date from Jan. 21, according to the IRS, is due to the 16-day government shutdown in October and will allow the IRS extra time to program and test its tax processing systems.
“Our teams have been working hard throughout the fall to prepare for the upcoming tax season,” IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said. “The late January opening gives us enough time to get things right with our programming, testing and systems validation. It’s a complex process, and our bottom-line goal is to provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation’s taxpayers.”
The IRS announced it would not process any tax returns before Jan. 31 in order to get ahead and taxpayers could receive their refunds faster by using e-file or Free File with the direct deposit option.
Though beginning the filing season is seeing a delay, the April 15 tax deadline will remain in place. However, the IRS reminds taxpayers that anyone can request an automatic six-month extension to file their tax return. The request is easily done with Form 4868, which can be filed electronically or on paper.
Those individuals and businesses interested in year-end giving and looking to make contributions to charity are also reminded of important tax provisions that have taken effect in recent years.
First, special tax-free charitable distributions for certain individual retirement arrangements (IRA) owners, is scheduled to expire Dec. 31 and gives older owners of IRAs a different way to give to charity.
An IRA owner, age 70 and a half or over, can directly transfer tax-free up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charity. This option first became available in 2006 and can be used for distributions from IRAs, regardless of whether the owners itemize their deductions. To qualify, the funds must be transferred directly by the IRA trustee to the eligible charity.
Next, the IRS reminds of rules for charitable contributions of personal items, including clothing and household items like furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens.
In order to be tax-deductible the clothing or household items being donated to charities must be in good used condition or better. An item that is claimed over $500 does not apply to this if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal with the return.
Those donating must also get a written acknowledgment that includes items contributed from the charity for all donations worth $250 or more.
When it comes to monetary donations, in order to deduct any donation to charity, regardless of the amount, the donator must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity, the date and the amount of the donation. Record examples include canceled checks, bank statements and credit card statements.
Monetary donations include those made by check or in cash, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. Those donating through payroll deduction should collect a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
Donations to charity must be made by Dec. 31 in order to be deducted on your 2013 tax return. Those donations charged to a credit card before Dec. 31, even if they are not paid until 2014, still count for 2013.
The IRS also reminds donators to check IRS.gov to ensure that their organization is eligible and tax-deductible. Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations, even if they are not listed in the database.
Additionally, the IRS reminds professional tax return preparers to renew their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN) if they plan to prepare returns in 2014. Current PTINs expire Dec. 31.