IRS

Free tax preparation services are now available for income-eligible taxpayers in eight southwestern Pennsylvania counties this tax season, thanks to the United Way of Allegheny County’s Money In Your Pocket Coalition.

Households earning up to $53,000 a year can get free, in-person assistance with 2014 tax returns from one of more than 300 IRS-certified volunteers. Taxpayers with $60,000 or less in annual income can take advantage of a free online tax preparation service.

The IRS and Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will get a bit of a late start this tax season, thanks to the 2013 federal government shutdown.

Both federal and state tax returns will begin processing refunds on Jan. 31. Still, people can get a jump on filling out the forms. As of Jan. 17 both the IRS and Pennsylvania will allow online free-file options.

If you’re used to filing your taxes early in the new year, you’re going to have to wait.

Not only did the 16-day government shutdown delay almost $4 billion in tax refunds — it’s delaying the 2014 tax filing season.

The Internal Revenue Service announced that the 2014 tax filing season will begin Jan. 31.

“It’s about ten days later than we had originally planned to start out and that’s due to the government shutdown that lasted for a couple of weeks … early to mid-October time frame,” said IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins.

Members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee will put their questions to the IRS acting commissioner Tuesday, and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says he wants to know who first authorized extra scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

The ranking Republican and Democrat on the committee sent a letter last week to acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller asking 41 questions.

The letter refers to an inspector general's report that found improper screening of groups began in 2010, stopped in 2011, and then began again early in 2012.