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What you need to know ahead of 2017 tax season

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tax Season begins Monday, Jan. 23 and there are major changes this year that will impact how long you have to file your tax returns and when you may receive your refunds.

Donnie Oliver is an accountant in Richmond who’s been helping clients file their tax returns for nearly two decades.

"Excited about tax season as always," he said at his office at Accounting Accuracy LLC.

New this year—the deadline to file tax returns is April 18.

"Any time the deadline is on a weekend, it's going to shift to the next business day,” he explained.

And Emancipation Day, a holiday in Washington, D.C., will be observed on Monday, April 17. So that pushes the nation's deadline to file returns and pay any amount due to April 18.

Another big change?
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act --also known as the PATH Act--will delay refunds for some taxpayers.

"It affects mostly the lower-income individuals who file for the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit,” said Oliver.

IRS officials say the affected refunds may start being released on February 15, which is the earliest you can get them, but they probably won't arrive in bank accounts until the week of February 27. The change was made so the IRS could have more time to detect and prevent fraud.

"This affects everything,” said Oliver.

Oliver says this can hurt both taxpayers and businesses.

"Those who file for those returns actually need those funds --they need them for every day activity, groceries, rent. And it impacts the total economy because I have business clients, and they expect tax season for people to come and put down payments on cars, and buy large appliances if they're a Lowe's or Home Depot,” he explained.

The PATH Act also requires people to renew their individual taxpayer identification numbers, known as ITINs.

Any ITIN that hasn't been used on a tax return at least once in the past three years, as well as any ITIN with middle digits of 78 or 79, must be renewed before a return can be processed. Anyone filing a tax return with an expired ITIN could experience return processing and refund delays, as well as denial of some tax benefits until the number is renewed. An ITIN renewal application could take up to 11 weeks to process during tax filing season.
ITINs are used by people who have tax-filing or payment obligations under U.S. law but are not eligible for a Social Security number.

"Make sure that you have all your information,” said Oliver.

Oliver recommends you not rush the process, and make sure you file all the proper forms.

"Because the IRS will send you a letter in the future saying you omitted this and this is your tax liability for this and this is your penalty for not filing this information or not including this information on your return,” he said.

No matter how you choose to file, whether or on your own online or with an accountant, Tom Gallagher from the Better Business Bureau says always be careful of scams.

"Beware if somebody says 'I'm going to get you more than anyone else will get you. They can't. The law says you can deduct this this and this. Or you can get this credit and that credit. You can't get more than what the law says,” said Gallagher.

Get more information on filing taxes from IRS.gov.