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The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) opened the 2013 individual income tax filing season on January 30 by announcing a variety of enhanced products and services to help taxpayers prepare and file their returns by the April 15 deadline.
The IRS began accepting and processing most individual tax returns on January 30 after updating forms and completing programming and testing of its processing systems to reflect the changes and extensions in the American Taxpayer Relief Act that Congress enacted on January 2.
The vast majority of taxpayers can file now, but the IRS is continuing to update its systems for some tax filers. The IRS will begin accepting tax returns from people claiming education credits in mid-February, while taxpayers claiming depreciation deductions, energy credits and many business credits will be able to file in late February or early March.
This year, taxpayers have until Monday, April 15, to file their 2012 tax returns and pay any tax due. The IRS expects to receive more than 147m individual tax returns this year, with about 75% projected to receive a refund.
Last year, it was said, a record 80% of all individual returns were filed electronically. The IRS reiterated that e-file, when combined with direct deposit, is the fastest way to get a refund. In the 2012 tax season, about three out of four refund filers selected direct deposit.
The IRS also stressed that the best way for taxpayers to get answers to their questions is by visiting its website. Last year, the website received a record 340m visits, a 17% increase over 2011.
Through the IRS website, taxpayers can also access Free File, which provides options for free brand-name tax software or online Fillable Forms plus free electronic filing. Taxpayers who earn USD57,000 or less annually can choose from about 15 commercial software providers, and there is no income limit for Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.
People making USD51,000 or less usually qualify for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program for free tax preparation and electronic filing. Tax Counseling for the Elderly, a similar community-based volunteer program, offers free tax help with priority assistance to people age 60 and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues.
For the third year, the IRS will offer IRS2Go, its smartphone application, which enables taxpayers to check on the status of their tax refund and obtain helpful tax information. The IRS2Go app, available for Apple and Android users, has been downloaded more than 800,000 times and used by taxpayers millions of times.
Even with the delayed January 30 opening of the tax season, the IRS expects to issue refunds within the usual timeframes. Last year, the IRS issued more than nine out of 10 refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days, and it expects the same results in 2013.
In addition, the IRS has stepped up its enforcement efforts to protect taxpayers from refund fraud and identity theft. It insists that stopping identity theft and refund fraud is a top priority and, for the 2013 filing season, the IRS's expanded efforts include stronger screening filters for incoming tax returns, increased IRS Criminal Investigation activity and expanded partnerships with local law-enforcement officials and financial institutions.
By late 2012, the IRS had assigned more than 3,000 IRS employees - more than double the number from 2011 - to work on identity theft-related issues. In addition, the IRS has trained 35,000 employees who work with taxpayers to recognize identity theft indicators and help people victimized by identity theft. During 2012, the IRS protected USD20bn of fraudulent refunds, including those related to identity theft, compared with USD14bn in 2011.
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