Because of the government shutdown back in October, the Internal Revenue Service has pushed back the date when it will begin accepting 2013 income tax filings. The date is now Jan. 31. Previously it had been Jan. 21.

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IRS pushes back tax file start date

The agency said that the extra 10 days will give it enough time to program and also test the systems it uses to process taxes. The IRS updates its systems every year, but last year’s updates were delayed significantly during the government shutdown, which lasted 16 days. The IRS uses over 50 different systems to process almost 150 million tax returns each year. The shutdown came right at the peak of tax preparation season for the IRS, and about 90% of the agency was closed during those 16 days.

Although the start date is 10 days later than previously scheduled, it still is just one day later than last year’s tax filing start date of Jan. 30. Last year the IRS was dealing with changes in the tax law which Congress made on Jan. 1, 2013. It was because of those late changes that the IRS had to push back the start date last year.

IRS opens e-file

The agency did open free filing capabilities on Jan. 14, but it said companies which do e-filing for taxpayers will hold those filings until Jan. 31. The IRS also said there’s no advantage to taxpayers filing using paper forms before that date because it will not process any returns before that date. The agency said the fastest way for taxpayers to receive their tax refunds is by using the e-file option with direct deposit of their refunds.

U.S. taxpayers will still be required to file their returns by April 15, as that date is set in stone by law. Taxpayers are able to ask for a six-month extension though, if they feel the need to do so. The form which is required to request an extension can be filed either on paper or electronically.