Wednesday marks start of tax season

IRS begins accepting tax returns today

Published On: Jan 30 2013 05:09:43 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 30 2013 10:42:01 AM EST

Wednesday marks the beginning of tax season, when most Americans can submit their returns to Uncle Sam.

The IRS had originally planned to kick things off on Jan. 22, but the fiscal cliff debate forced the agency to push the official start date back eight days.

Certain taxpayers will still need to wait to file, however. Tax returns claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit, two popular education credits, won't be processed until mid-February. Other filers with more complex returns, including those claiming residential energy credits and general business credits, will need to wait until late February or March for their returns to be processed.

If you're a victim of identity theft, you may also have to wait for your refund. The IRS has been struggling to keep up with surging tax fraud, and identity theft victims often experienced delays of at least 180 days last tax season, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service. This year, to fight fraud, the IRS has increased the number of identity theft-screening filters, hoping to stop fraudulent returns before they are issued.

Otherwise, you can generally expect to receive a refund within three weeks after the IRS receives your return. Last year, more than 110 million taxpayers collected an average refund of $2,803 a piece.

Tax experts have come up with the top five most common mistakes, as well as the top five tips for side-stepping them.