What you need to know this tax season, return delays

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Tax season will officially begin in about a week and many of you are waiting for your W2 forms. This year, if you get a tax return, it will be delayed -- but only for people who file certain tax credits.

Last year, Congress passed PATH -- Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes. And with that, there are some changes in when some people may get their returns.

"This law has now required that any tax return that has refunds that are due to earned income credit or additional child tax credit cannot be issued by the IRS until at least the 15th of February," said Hank Houser, a tax preparer at Liberty Tax.

If you don't claim earned income credit or additional child tax credit, you will receive your tax return in the standard amount of time -- within 21 days after you file.

But if you're still confused and need extra help, "I think it is better to see a professional tax preparer because that way you know you're getting all the information. You also have the protection that they will back you up on your return if there are questions with the IRS," Houser said.

"Whether or not it's a simple return and you're comfortable doing it yourself, then that's great. I don't think everybody needs to pay a fee in order to have your taxes done. Although, if you're a business owner and you want to make sure you've dotted your i's and crossed your t's to take advantage of all of the exemptions and all of the write-offs that are available to you -- it might be a good idea to consult with a professional," said Jennifer Landon, a financial advisor at Journey Financial Services.

Beyond tax season, it's also a good idea to fine-tune your finances for the year ahead.

"If there is any opportunities to strengthen things and to make things better, or if there's anything that needs to be revamped and revised to make things more efficient," Landon said.

You can officially start filing Jan. 23, but the IRS is allowing you to get a jump on your taxes by filing with a program called Free File. With this program, you can start preparing your returns today with major filing services online for free.

Free File software will walk you through the preparation process, and it will identify any tax changes that could affect your return. Many of the major tax filing services are available on the program, but Free File makes it free to use another tax filing website. If your adjusted gross income in 2016 was less than $64,000, you are eligible to use Free File.

"You know, more than 70 percent of our nation's taxpayers are eligible for this Free File software. Many of the large name-brand tax software providers are part of this alliance. They're the same name brands that you see advertised on TV. So you could actually use those brand-name software providers absolutely for free. That's the big difference. No payment required," said IRS spokesperson Karen Connelly.

The IRS has worked with Free File since 2003 to provide a free filing option for taxpayers each year. To find out if you are eligible to use the program, visit

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