MIDLAND TEXAS - Some individuals will have to wait until at least mid-February to file their returns with the Internal Revenue Service due to late changes to the tax law, 

For teachers who deduct their educator expenses and for students who claim a higher education tuition and fees deduction are among the primary tax filers affected, said Clay Sanford, an IRS media relations representative for North Texas.  The delay comes in large part because of the tax cut extension that was passed in Congress in December. Once the IRS releases its updated forms, local tax preparers said the various software systems used by tax payers also will have to be changed to interface with the new laws.

John Wojtkun at Liberty Tax Service says "the start of this season has been, let's say, a challenge."

Teachers who've spent less than $250 on their classroom won't have to wait for the new forms but those who spent that much or more and want to file for a deduction will need to wait.  Taxpayers filing for a deduction on tuition and fees paid for themselves, a spouse or a dependent also will have to wait. Eligibility for the deduction depends on income and cannot be claimed if also claiming a Hope or Lifetime Learning Credit, according to the IRS.

Those of you who own homes, or have experienced high medical expenses, or who donate to charity or who have some other combination of circumstances that make itemizing deductions more beneficial than taking the standard deduction also are in a holding pattern.

The forms should be released by mid-to late-February.  The more than 20 million Americans who file a 1040 EZ form already can get their returns in to the IRS and according to local tax preparers, many are.

Whether filing with the help of professionals, through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site or from home, the IRS is encouraging tax payers to file online.  About 70 percent of Americans e-filed in 2010 and the IRS only expects that number to increase, Sanford said. Starting this year, the IRS won't be mailing paper forms out to those interested in sticking to the pencil and paper method.

Forms still will be available at libraries and post offices, among other places.

Sanford said by e-filing, individuals are able to ensure they receive all the tax breaks for which they qualify and also to get their refund at a faster rate.

The deadline for all income tax returns was shifted from the typical April 15 date because of Emancipation Day, which is recognized in the District of Columbia, is now April 18.