New year begins with delayed filing season, continuing tax reform discussions and new IRS leader

Taxpayers will experience a short delay to the start of the 2014 filing season, but passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 averted the possibility of an IRS shutdown in January. The budget agreement, however, did not include any tax provisions, and tax reform must find a new vehicle to move forward in Congress. Meanwhile, the IRS starts 2014 with a new leader, who promised to restore public trust in the agency after a troubled 2013.

2014 filing season

To end the October government shutdown, Congress passed a stop-gap funding bill to keep the IRS and other federal agencies open through mid-January 2014. Many tax professional groups warned that a government shutdown in January, even for a few days, would result in significant delays in tax return processing and refunds. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 authorizes funding for the federal government for two years.

The start of the 2014 filing season, however, will be slightly delayed because of the October shutdown. The IRS needs additional time to reprogram its return processing systems. The original start date of the 2014 filing season was January 21, 2014. In December, the IRS announced that the 2014 filing season will start on January 31. The IRS will not process any returns (electronic or paper) before January 31, 2013.

Most business filers can begin filing 2013 returns on January 13, the IRS reported. These include filers of Forms 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return; 1120S, U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation; and 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income. However, the January 13 start date does not apply to business owners that report their incomes on Form 1040. They must wait until January 31.

Tax legislation

Many tax reform proposals were introduced in Congress in 2013 but lawmakers deferred action until 2014. The leaders of the House and Senate tax writing committees have both said they want to move tax reform legislation in 2014 but the extent of any reform—and overall enthusiasm in Congress for reform—is unclear. Some lawmakers want a complete overhaul of the Tax Code (the last major tax reform was in 1986); others want to a more piece-meal approach. Lawmakers are also divided over whether reform should be revenue neutral or if reform should raise new revenues.

There had been some expectation that the budget agreement would include tax provisions, especially the so-called tax extenders. These are popular but temporary incentives, such as the higher education tuition deduction, state and local sales tax deduction, transit benefits parity, teacher’s classroom expense deduction, research tax credit, and more. The budget agreement negotiators decided not to include the extenders, which have now expired. Congress is likely to extend the incentives retroactive to January 1, 2014. If you have any questions about the status of an extender, please contact our office.

Looking ahead, President Obama is expected in his State of the Union Address in January and FY 2015 budget proposals to again call for a reduction in the corporate tax rate in exchange for eliminating some business tax incentives. The President made the same proposal last year but it failed to gain traction in Congress. The President is also likely to urge Congress to renew tax incentives that encourage employers to hire military veterans and individuals from economically-disadvantaged groups, consolidate some taxpayer penalties, extend enhanced small business expensing (and possibly bonus depreciation) and more. Our office will share details of the President’s proposals as they are released.

New IRS Commissioner

In May—after news broke of the IRS selecting applications from conservative groups for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny—President Obama appointed Daniel Werfel to serve as Acting Commissioner. The President instructed Werfel to launch a top-down review of the agency. Since May, several senior IRS executives resigned or retired and Werfel appointed new top managers. Werfel also instituted cost-saving measures, such as eliminating employee conferences, curbing employee travel and not paying bonuses. Werfel, however, was never intended to serve permanently at the IRS and President Obama nominated John Koskinen to be Commissioner. The Senate approved Koskinen’s nomination in December.

Koskinen comes to the IRS after serving as the non-executive chair of Freddie Mac from 2008 to 2011. Previously, Koskinen was deputy mayor ofWashington,D.C.and also was a senior manager at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). At his confirmation hearing, Senate Finance Committee (SFC) Chair Max Baucus, D-Montana, called Koskinen “the type of leader we need at the IRS.” SFC Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, reminded Koskinen that he has a “difficult job ahead” and “it is vital that the IRS maintain its credibility with taxpayers.” Koskinen told lawmakers that “trust is the most important asset the IRS has.”

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