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Ready for tax season? It’s coming ...

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Still time to take action to make it count

The Internal Revenue Service will start accepting and processing 2013 tax returns on Jan. 31.

The delay is to allow time to update, program and properly test all systems after the process was interrupted by the government shutdown in 2013.

IRS spokesman Dan Boone said the agency expects Tennesseans to file about 3 million tax returns, with more than 2.5 million of those filed electronically.

But while the start of the filing season is delayed, Boone reminded filers that the clock is ticking when it comes to certain actions that must be taken by Dec. 31 to count for the 2013 tax year.

“Taxpayers need to act now when it comes to making donations to charities and contributions to workplace retirement plans,” Boone

said.

He offered these specific reminders:

• Gifts to charities. Donations to qualified charities must be made by Dec. 31 to be deducted on the 2013 tax return.

Deductions must be itemized, and taxpayers must have proper documentation for each donation to take the charitable contributions deduction.

A donation charged to a credit card by Dec. 31 is deductible for 2013 even if the credit card bill is not paid until 2014.

• Tax-free IRA distribution. Filers who are age 70 1/2 or older can have up to $100,000 transferred directly to a qualified charity. This transfer can serve as the filer’s required minimum yearly IRA distribution, is tax-free to the filer, and benefits the charity. But this tax benefit is set to expire after Dec. 31.

• Saver’s credit. Low- and moderate-income workers can take steps now to save for retirement and earn a special tax credit in 2013.

The saver’s credit helps offset part of the first $2,000 workers voluntarily contribute to IRAs and to 401(k) plans and similar workplace retirement programs.

People have until April 1 to set up and contribute to a new IRA for 2013 or to add money to an existing IRA for 2013, but elective contributions to a 401(k) plan or similar workplace program must be made by Dec. 31.

Professional tax return preparers should now renew their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers if they plan to prepare returns in 2014.

Current PTINs expire Dec. 31. Out of about 12,000 Tennessee tax preparers who have PTINs, more than 5,900 have not yet renewed.

Anyone who prepares or helps prepare all or substantially all of a federal tax return, claim for refund or other federal forms for compensation must have a valid PTIN.

All enrolled agents also must have a PTIN.

Tax professionals can obtain or renew their PTINs at www.irs.gov/ptin.

The annual PTIN requirement is part of the IRS’s ongoing effort to enhance tax administration and improve services to taxpayers.