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50 million taxpayers must delay filing - IRS

By David Goldman, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Itemize your tax deductions? Itching for a refund? You're going to have to wait.

The IRS said that it needs until mid- to late-February to reprogram its processing systems because Congress acted so late this year cleaning up the tax code. The bill, which includes deductions for state and local sales taxes, college tuition and teacher expenses, wasn't signed into law until Dec. 17.

The bill ensured that the federal income tax rates would not change, and itemized deductions will continue to be allowed in full for high-income taxpayers.

As a result, the 50 million taxpayers who itemize their deductions will have to hold off for a bit before they file. Of course, not everyone files early: only about 9 million of the 140 million U.S. tax filers filed in January or February of last year.

"The majority of taxpayers will be able to fill out their tax returns and file them as they normally do," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in a statement. "The IRS will work through the holidays and into the New Year to get our systems reprogrammed and ensure taxpayers have a smooth tax season."

The delay affects both paper and electronic filers who itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A. That includes those claiming the new Educator Expense Deduction, which credits grade school teachers for out-of-pocket expenses of up to $250.

It also includes those claiming deductions for college students, covering up to $4,000 of tuition, which is claimed on Form 8917, though the IRS said there will be no delays for those that claim other education tax credits.

Though itemizers can work on their tax returns before the IRS is ready to accept them, the government said people should not send them in before it is ready to process the returns.

The IRS hasn't yet said exactly what day it will be able to begin processing the impacted tax returns, but it expects to announce that date "in the near future."

Meanwhile, TurboTax said its customers can e-file with the company as early as Jan. 6, and it will hold onto the filings until the IRS is ready to process them. To top of page

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