The Internal Revenue Service began processing Wednesday the more than 147 million tax returns that the agency anticipates receiving for 2012.
"Today, the IRS officially opened the 2013 filing season," Mike Dobzinski, spokesman for Florida and Louisiana, said Wednesday. "Taxpayers can now file and have the returns accepted and processed."
Taxpayers have until April 15 to file their 2012 returns.
Of the 147 million returns to be filed nationwide, approximately 75 percent of them are projected to result in a refund, according to IRS officials.
In Florida, 9.5 million people are expected to file for 2012.
"It's a small increase over the previous year," Dobzinski said.
"There's more filers each year," he said.
The IRS was initially to began processing returns on Jan. 22. The start was delayed, however, so the IRS could update its processing systems and forms to reflect the American Taxpayer Relief Act enacted on Jan. 2 by Congress.
The act extended a number of provisions that were already in place
"Most everything they (taxpayers) were able to claim last year is still there this year," Dobzinski said.
The IRS is continuing to update its systems for some tax filers.
Returns for people claiming education credits will be processed beginning mid-February. Returns involving deprecation deductions, energy credits and many business credits will be processed later in February or early March.
"There are some categories of people that will have to wait," he said.
A full list of the affected forms is available online at: IRS.gov.
The filing deadline of April 15 remains the same for all.
"They can always get an extension if they want," Dobzinski said. "An automatic six-month extension."
To file for one, fill out Form 4868 online or mail it in by April 15.
For those who chose to file their return electronically - about 80 percent used this method last year - the IRS offers "Free File" online. The program provides access to free commercial tax software and free electronic filing.
Taxpayers who make $57,000 or less can select from more than a dozen commercial providers. There is no income limit for the "File Fillable Forms."
"Electronic filing is the best way to file," he said, adding that the benefits of e-filing are it is faster, easier and safer than the traditional mail method.
"We see an increase every year," Dobzinski said of e-filing.
The IRS has made other changes for the 2013 season.
He explained that the Web site was redesigned, there are more social media tools available and the number of ways to get information has increased.
"We've expanded some of our services," Dobzinski said.
One enhancement is to the "Where's My Refund?" tool found online. The tool now works as a tracking system, like tracking a package through the mail.
"They can follow the track of their return," he said.
Initial information for an e-filed return is generally available within 24 hours of the IRS receiving it, or four weeks for a return that is mailed. The system updates every 24 hours, so there is no need to check more than once a day.
For taxpayers who make $51,000 or less, there is a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program available that offers free tax preparation and electronic filing. Tax Counseling for the Elderly is also available for those 60 or older.
Dobzinski noted that the Earned Income Tax Credit - essentially, a tax credit for low-income working Americans - is once again available.
Last year, approximately 54,000 claims were filed in Lee County for the credit, totaling about $126.7 million. The average credit was $2,336.
"That can increase your refund by that much," he said.
For more information about filing a tax return or the programs provided through the IRS, visit online at: IRS. gov or contact (800) 829-1040.