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Seal It With a Kiss: IRS to Start Processing Itemized Returns on Feb. 14

The IRS has set its delayed date for processing taxes as February 14.Even though the IRS officially declared tax season open, millions of taxpayers weren't sure when they would be able to file their returns because of the last minute tax deal. Now the IRS has declared Feb. 14 -- Valentine's Day -- as the start date for processing tax returns.

Beginning then, the IRS will begin processing paper and e-filed federal income tax returns for taxpayers claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A, the higher education tuition and fees deduction on federal form 8917, and the educator expenses deduction. Before that date, those taxpayers may prepare their returns, but the IRS will not accept or process them.Early estimates were that as many as 50 million taxpayers could be affected by the delay, but the IRS now estimates that the number is closer to 9 million. The revised number is based on the timing of similar tax returns filed by mid-February 2010.

Taxpayers who aren't affected by the delay -- largely, those who do not itemize their deductions -- constitute the largest percentage of taxpayers. Those taxpayers may begin filing their returns immediately.

Many tax software packages, including those sold by TurboTax and H&R Block, have announced that they will prepare any affected returns immediately and hold the returns until the Feb. 14 processing date. Many paid preparers will similarly hold your return for you -- be sure to ask upfront if this is something you're concerned about. If your software package or preparer doesn't offer this service, you can still begin preparing your return, but you'll need to wait until Feb. 14 to send your return to the IRS.

The IRS delayed the processing dates because it needed the extra time to update its systems after Congress pushed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 through at year's end. As a result of the new law, a number of tax provisions that had previously expired at the end of 2009 were renewed -- in the nick of time -- for 2010. Ultimately, that's a good thing for taxpayers -- even if it does mean a little bit of a wait.

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How to Write Off Sales Taxes

For the years 2005 through 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permits you to write off either your state and local income tax or sales taxes when itemizing your deductions. People who live in a state that does not impose income taxes often benefit most from this deduction. However, you might also be better off deducting sales taxes instead of income taxes if you make large purchases during the year and your total sales tax payments exceed those for state income tax. You can use either the actual sales taxes you paid or the IRS optional sales tax tables.

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