The Internal Revenue Service’s battle against fraud and identity theft is intensifying as the tax filing season opens, and some of the neediest taxpayers are getting caught in the middle.
The agency is barred from issuing refunds before Feb. 15 on any returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Congress mandated the delay to give the IRS more time to review returns to try to catch fraudulent ones before refunds are paid out.
In reality, taxpayers taking these credits probably will have to wait even longer to get their refunds — until the week of Feb. 27, the IRS says, because of weekends and the President’s Day holiday.
Dave DuVal, vice president of customer advocacy at TaxAudit.com, said the impact on these taxpayers could be tremendous. “They live paycheck to paycheck, and this is money they’re counting on,” he said.
Still, the attempt to reduce fraud “is a positive thing overall,” said Greg Rosica, tax partner at Ernst & Young.
The IRS will begin accepting returns on Jan. 23, and tax experts recommend that Americans continue to file their returns early, even with the refund delays.
“For this tax season, it’s more important than ever for taxpayers to plan ahead,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement.
This year’s filing deadline is Tuesday April 18, since the traditional April 15 date falls on a Saturday, and D.C. Emancipation Day is observed on April 17.
By Carole Feldman, The Associated Press