The tax season just got a little shorter and a bit more stressful.

The IRS said this week that the “fiscal cliff” agreement has caused an eight-day delay in the schedule for processing returns, which is now set to begin Jan. 30. That could mean delayed refunds for individuals and tougher deadlines for already harried accountants.

“The changes in the tax laws and the later filing will have an effect on everyone,” said Katie Zenko, a tax partner with Berry Talbot Royer, an accounting firm in Falmouth. “I’m not looking forward to tax season this year. It will be even more stressful than normal.”

The deadline to file taxes remains unchanged — April 15.

The biggest effect of the delayed processing will be longer waits for people expecting refunds, said Kirk Purvis, a principal with the Portland accounting firm Dawson, Smith, Purvis & Bassett.

Taxpayers seeking financial aid for college also may run into problems, Purvis said. Often, colleges set application deadlines for financial aid at the end of January or beginning of February, and require tax returns for the most recent year. Those deadlines could be difficult to meet this year, Purvis said.

The tax season complications were triggered by the tax law changes in the American Taxpayer Relief Act passed by Congress on Jan. 1. The changes mean the IRS must update forms and complete reprogramming and testing of its processing systems.

The bulk of tax filers — more than 120 million households — should be able to start filing paper or electronic tax returns on Jan. 30, the IRS said.

But households with more complex tax issues will have to wait until late February or early March because of the need for more extensive changes in tax forms and processing systems. The latter group includes people claiming the residential energy credit, depreciation of property or general business credits. A specific date for those people to start filing will be set at a later time.

People can speed up their refunds by filing electronically and having refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts, the IRS said. More than 80 percent of taxpayers filed electronically last year.

Local accountants said they haven’t been deluged with calls on the tax changes yet, but the queries may increase as people get closer to usual filing dates.

Berry Talbot Royer plans to send a newsletter to clients to explain the tax law changes and the filing schedule.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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