The Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday it will delay the start of next year's filing season by up to two weeks to give programmers time to finish updating the agency's computers.
The 16-day shutdown, which ended last week, came at a critical time as the agency was working to update more than 50 systems used to process returns, the IRS said in a statement.
The filing season had been set to start Jan. 21. Acting IRS head Danny Werfel said the agency is working to shorten the delay and will announce the exact start date in December.
The delay will affect early filers, many of whom rush their returns to the IRS so they can get refunds quickly.
The April 15 deadline for filing individual tax returns, which is set by law, remains unchanged.
"Readying our systems to handle the tax season is an intricate, detailed process, and we must take the time to get it right," Werfel said. "The adjustment to the start of the filing season provides us the necessary time to program, test and validate our systems so that we can provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation's taxpayers."
This is the second year in a row the agency will have to push back the date when it starts processing tax returns. This year, the agency delayed filing season until Jan. 30 for most filers because Congress made last-minute changes to the tax law.
Federal income tax refunds averaged more than $2,800 this year. The IRS issued more than $228 billion in refunds this year. Most of that money was issued before March 1.