The Internal Revenue Service said the upcoming tax-filing season would start on time in mid-January, except for up to 13.5 million taxpayers who will have to wait until Feb. 11 if they need to file any of five forms affected by the late enactment of a patch for the alternative minimum tax.

President Bush signed the AMT fix into law on Wednesday after congressional Democrats and Republicans finally agreed to pass a version of the bill that did not contain any offsets to make up for the loss in revenue from preventing the AMT from spreading to another 23 million taxpayers. The IRS said it would be able to begin processing returns for the vast majority of taxpayers in mid-January. But taxpayers who need to use five forms related to AMT legislation will have to wait until the IRS completes the reprogramming of its systems for the new law before they can file their returns. The IRS said that between 3 to 4 million people who use those forms traditionally file early in tax season.

"We regret the inconvenience the delay will mean for millions of early tax filers, especially those expecting a refund," said Acting IRS Commissioner Linda Stiff in a statement.

The IRS has targeted Feb.11 as the potential start date to begin filing the five AMT-related forms. They are Forms 8863 (Education Credits), 5695 (Residential Energy Credits), 1040A's Schedule 2 (Child and Dependent Care Expenses for Form 1040A Filers), 8396 (Mortgage Interest Credit), and 8859 (District of Columbia First-Time Homebuyer Credit).

However, the IRS has been able to reprogram its systems to begin processing seven other AMT-related forms, including Form 6251 (Alternative Minimum Tax - Individuals). The IRS expects to begin processing returns with those seven forms starting on Jan. 14.

Electronic returns involving the five affected forms will not be accepted until the IRS updates its systems in February. The IRS said paper filers should wait to file as well. All other e-file and paper returns will be accepted starting in January. The IRS is urging all the affected taxpayers to use electronic filing to reduce the wait times for their refunds.

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