After some delays caused by the federal government, things seem to be back on track for local tax preparers.
Both private accountants and those who work for tax prep chains say shifts in federal mandates earlier this year slowed the Internal Revenue Service some.
“Things were kind of slow at the beginning because the IRS didn’t accept all the forms until the middle of February, about Feb. 15,” said Geoff Toman, a senior tax adviser with H&R Block on Lake Center Parkway. “But now all the forms are being accepted and there’s no reason for people to not come in and get their taxes done.”
Jim Wheeler, a certified public accountant who’s owned his office in Cumming since 1986, said the delay made for smooth sailing in January, which is typically busy.
“January was quite easy because there wasn’t really much we could do,” he said. “But I paid the price in February and it’s going to get worse in March, and it’s probably going to be pretty ragged those first two weeks in April because people that normally would have been early are going to be a little bit later now.”
Toman said the IRS was unable to accept many forms in January since Congress didn’t make final tax law changes until “the very last minute.”
“And then to get all the software changed, the IRS had their hands full,” he said.
One of the most important delayed documents was an education form that allows families with students to get a credit.
“Anybody if they had an education credit on their return, their refund was delayed,” he said.
According to Toman and Wheeler, it’s important to not wait around to file that 2012 tax return.
While the deadline has returned to April 15 after several years of being extended due to federal holidays falling on that date, there’s no need to wait until then.
“Our biggest advice is always to just go ahead and file,” Toman said.
Wheeler, who has more than 400 clients, said he’s glad the federal government didn’t extend this year’s deadline.
“The only thing that happens if the IRS extends [the deadline] is people procrastinate further,” he said. “The ones that will be at the last minute in April would be at the last minute in July if they extended it that long.”
Karen Maglothin, another senior tax adviser at H&R Block, said filing returns as early as possible is especially important this year since there are many new federal mandates tied to those returns.
She said some of the forms associated with health care relate to the 2012 returns.
“If you wait to file and you don’t have [health] insurance and you need to apply for state agency insurance, it’s going to be held up because all of that will be based on this year’s tax return,” she said. “That’s a big issue, so don’t put it off.”
Toman said some other items people may notice when completing their 2012 returns also relate to new tax law.
“We’ve got some tax items that were scheduled to change that didn’t,” he said. “That child tax credit was going to do down to $500 and that stayed at $1,000 … the private mortgage insurance was going to go away, but Congress changed their mind at the last minute and said, ‘No, we won’t take that away.’ So that’s a deduction … that definitely gets to be counted for those that own a home.”
But it’s not all good news, Toman said.
“The big thing that people have probably noticed on their W-2s is that percentage for Social Security has gone back to 6.2. For two years under President Bush, it was 4.2 percent and President Obama extended that … but now it’s gone back to 6.2 percent, which means for households or individuals that make $100,000, it’s going to cost them 2 percent in their take-home pay,” he said.
“And for Medicare in 2013, people [making] in excess of $250,000 [a year] are going to have to be a little bit concerned because part of their investment income could be taxed at a 3.8 percent tax rate. That’s a new tax that’s coming in.”
In the meantime, though, the biggest thing to Wheeler is just to get those 2012 returns filed.
“Just get it together and get it filed,” he said.