Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.) shown last month. Associated Press

Halfway through 2014, Congress has made no more progress on tax overhaul than it has on other big issues.

Few expect any progress before the November elections. In February, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) took a step forward by releasing his proposal for a comprehensive revision of the code.

Although experts of many political stripes praised the plan as a serious one, Mr. Camp's own party leaders lowered expectations before its release. When asked to comment on the plan's details, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said, "Blah, blah, blah."

Mr. Camp is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, but many expect his proposals will live on.

"The Camp plan has many good ideas that would work better than our current system, so it gives reformers a good place to start," says Roberton Williams, an income-tax expert at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

Few expect any progress on tax reform before the November elections. Bloomberg

Meanwhile, the Senate and House are at loggerheads about how to treat a host of tax breaks that expired at the end of last year. Among them are an accelerated depreciation provision often used by small businesses; a write-off allowing taxpayers to deduct state sales taxes instead of state income taxes; and a deduction for certain education costs.

Other expired provisions include an important break for people whose mortgage debt has been forgiven; a $250 write-off that teachers can take for classroom supplies; and a popular rule allowing certain individual retirement account owners to contribute assets directly to a charity.

The Senate Finance Committee, which is led by Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), has approved a package that extends the current versions of these provisions retroactively to the beginning of this year and leaves them in place through the end of 2015.

Mr. Camp, on the other hand, has had his committee consider the major expiring provisions one by one, and prefers to pass permanent extensions that incorporate elements of his tax-overhaul plan. So far the committee has sent to the House floor an overhaul of various education incentives and depreciation allowances, among others.

Experts don't think Congress will deal with the expired provisions until near the end of the year—as has happened several times in the past decade.

What should taxpayers do in the meantime? "Don't depend on a tax break that might not be there, and plan to move quickly after Congress acts," says Melissa Labant, a tax specialist at the American Institute of CPAs in Washington. She believes Congress will extend the expired breaks.

People whose lenders forgive mortgage debt also need to know they are at risk, she adds. Without the expired provision, the law considers canceled debt to be income, so people could be surprised by huge tax bills.

IRA owners who want to make direct donations of assets also should be careful, experts say. This provision allows IRA owners who are 70½ or older to use up to $100,000 of account assets as a charitable donation. Under the rules, the payment must be made directly from the IRA to a qualified nonprofit.

While there isn't a deduction for the gift, neither does the withdrawal count as income. Such lower income can, in turn, help avoid higher Medicare premiums and other taxes on the affluent. It also can help minimize taxes on Social Security payments.

IRA owners who want to make such donations this year have options, experts say. One is to wait to make gifts until Congress extends the law. But if the giver wants to make only the minimum annual withdrawal, as many do, then he should "leave room" for the donation, because IRA funds can't be put back in once they have been pulled out.

For example, if an IRA owner has a required $40,000 annual withdrawal and wants $5,000 of it to go to his church, he should withdraw only $35,000 before Congress reinstates the provision—and then make the donation. If he takes out the full $40,000, he can't put back $5,000 and use that for a donation, says Robert Keebler, a certified public account in Green Bay, Wis.

Mr. Keebler recommends waiting to make IRA donations until Congress acts. But there's another option: If the IRA owner plans to make a $5,000 gift to the church whether or not the law is renewed, he could make a direct transfer of IRA assets now.

Congress will probably bless this move retroactively. If it doesn't, the taxpayer can still deduct the gift.