The Internal Revenue Service began accepting electronically filed individual tax returns Tuesday, opening the tax season on time this year despite its latest budget crunch.

In an email to tax professionals Tuesday, the IRS said its Modernized e-File, or MeF, system began accepting individual tax returns on January 20. The IRS began accepting business tax returns earlier this month on January 9, and it opened its Free File service last Friday (see IRS Braces for Start of Tax-Filing Season).

The IRS is placing special emphasis on its e-file service this year, warning that paper-based returns are likely to face longer processing delays than usual, thanks to the fifth consecutive year of budget cuts at the hands of Congress (see IRS Commissioner Warns Tax Refunds Could Be Delayed by Budget Cuts).

During a press conference last week, IRS commissioner John Koskinen stressed the impact of the budget cuts on the IRS’s ability to process tax returns and respond to customer calls.

“This year, as in the past, the IRS expects to issue 90 percent of refunds in less than 21 days,” said Koskinen. “The best way to ensure a quick refund is to e-file your return. That’s because we expect processing delays for paper returns as a result of our budget constraints. Normally, refunds for paper filers can take four to six weeks, but this year it may take an extra week or more. So if you’ve never e-filed before, this is a great year to consider doing so.”

He urged taxpayers to use the IRS’s Web site if they have a question and only to call the phone lines as a last resort since they are likely to encounter even longer delays than in past seasons.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access