Monthly Archives: February 2013

Fiscal cliff debate delays some 2012 tax refunds

Fiscal cliff debate delays some 2012 tax refunds


debate delays

The IRS will begin processing tax returns on Jan. 30 this year, 8 days later than usual.

You might get your tax refund later than usual this year, and you can thank the congressional debate over the fiscal cliff for that.

The IRS says that it will begin processing individual tax returns on Jan. 30 this year, eight days later than usual. The reason: Programming IRS computers and printing forms and instructions were delayed by congressional wrangling over the fiscal cliff — a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that briefly became law on Jan. 1.

About 120 million individual taxpayers will be able to file Jan. 30, the IRS says, and most people will get their refunds on time. “We have worked hard to open tax season as soon as possible,” IRS acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said in a news release. “This date ensures we have the time we need to update and test our processing systems.”

CHANGES: Tax preparers say they’re prepared for changes

IMPACT: Deal means taxes will rise for most Americans

The issue was not higher tax rates for wealthy individuals, because those go into effect for the 2013 tax year. But tax rules that Congress had to extend for 2012 stalled the IRS, because it has to program its computers for those changes. Congress didn’t reach an agreement until Jan. 1.

“There was not a lot of acrimony on large pieces of the tax packages,” says Gary Schatsky, a New York financial planner. “If Congress could have come to grips with them early, people would not have had uncertainty about what large portions of the tax code looks like, nor would people have had to put off filing as soon as they desire.”

Those with the most common “extenders” — the Alternative Minimum Tax patch, and deductions for higher education, state and local sales tax, and out-of-pocket expenses for educators — will be able to file by Jan. 30. TurboTax says it’s accepting e-file returns and holding them until the Jan. 30 filing date.

But some people won’t be able to start filing until late February or March because of the need for more extensive form and processing systems changes. This group includes people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits, the IRS says.

Because filing season starts eight days later, will the April 15 filing deadline be pushed back eight days? Not a chance. You’ll still have to have your return postmarked by April 15 to avoid late-filing penalties.


Mortgage rates edge up after three weeks

Mortgage rates edge up after three weeks

Mortgage rates

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week but remained near historic lows. Low mortgage rates have helped support the slowly recovering housing market.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.56% from 3.53% last week. That’s still near the 3.31% reached in November, which was the lowest on record dating to 1971.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage stayed at 2.77% for a third straight week. The record low is 2.63%.
The cheap mortgages that are encouraging more people to buy or refinance could also help sustain the economy’s recovery this year. Increased sales are helping lift home prices, which tend to make consumers feel wealthier and more likely to spend. And when homeowners refinance, it typically leads to lower loan payments and more spending. Consumer spending drives nearly 70 percent of economic activity.

Sales of previously occupied homes in the U.S. rose in January to the second-highest level in three years, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

Analysts say the pace of purchases would be higher still if more homes were available. The supply of homes for sale dropped to nearly an eight-year low in January. The limited supply has boosted demand for construction, which has made builders more confident.

Still, the housing market has a long way to go to a full recovery. And many people are unable to take advantage of the low rates, either because they can’t qualify for stricter lending rules or they lack the money for larger down payment requirements.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for 30-year loans was unchanged at 0.8 point. The fee for 15-year loans also remained at 0.8 point.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage increased to 2.65 percent from 2.61 percent last week. The fee for one-year adjustable-rate loans rose to 0.4 point from 0.3.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage was steady at 2.64 percent. The fee slipped to 0.5 point from 0.6.

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