MARIETTA, Ga. -- The fiscal cliff is already having an impact on your taxes, and the prolonged debate has prompted the IRS to push back the day it will start accepting electronic tax returns.
According to H7R Block agent James Robertson, the IRS will not start processing tax returns until January 21, about a week later than normal.
Those with more complicated returns may have to wait even longer if they want to make sure the tax forms and preparation software is up to date with any last minute changes Congress may make.
Of course all of this means families will have to wait longer to get their tax refund. Robertson said many filers try to get their return by Groundhogs Day. Now we're looking at Valentine's Day for the money to start trickling out.
Many families may not be in such a rush to file.
"I think there will be some people who will be surprised and unpleasantly surprised with what tax bill they get this year," Robertson said.
That's because the Alternative Minimum Tax or AMT is usually a little known tax that affects just a few. But this year the Tax Policy Center says it could raise the tax bill for more than 30 million Americans, by $888 to $3,800.
"Typically Congress does a patch for that right at the end of the year and right now that patch hasn't been done," Robertson said.
The only way to combat the increased tax burden is to maximize deductions. An even better idea when you consider next year, we may not have as many of them.
"If you have the ability to make an additional mortgage payment before it's due on the first of January, make it before the end of the year - real estate taxes, anything like that," Robertson said.
Deductions also include charitable contributions and medical expenses. Next year, Congress has voted to make medical deductions harder to take. So you may want to consider buying high ticket items such as contact lenses or paying off outstanding medical bills in the next few days.
"Starting in 2013, in order for taxpayers under 65 to be able to claim medical expenses, they must exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income," H&R Block said in a release on tax tips.
Right now the threshold is 7.5%.
If the stock market hasn't served you well this year, there might be a bright side. You can offset capital gains with capital losses, or use up to $3,000 of capital losses to offset wages.
"With so much uncertainty about what taxes will look like next year, taxpayers need to focus on what they can do right now to claim as many tax breaks to which they are entitled before they go away," H&R Block district manager Josefina Fernandez said.
Even if Congress fixes the AMT, many economists do not expect lawmakers to save the payroll tax break that went into affect two years ago. The numbers vary, depending on who is doing the math, but on average you can expect a person making $50,000 a year to bring home about $50 less a month.
Regardless what Congress decides, economists say the impact is going to be more like slow a tumble, not a doomsday dive. Still, this may be the year to get some expert advice on how to ease the fall.