What Do I Do If I Haven’t Received My Tax Refund?

Follow These Steps To Track Your Refund
Follow These Steps To Track Your Refund

Filing your tax return was stressful, but now that it’s done you know the amount you’ve got coming and you can’t wait to get your hands on it. This is understandable; we all usually have that refund earmarked for something. That’s why it can be so frustrating when your tax refund doesn’t arrive on time. Read on to learn what to do if you’ve been waiting an exceptionally long time for your tax refund.

Gather Some Information

The first thing you should do when you have yet to receive your federal tax refund is to gather your social security number, filing status and the exact amount that you expect to get so you can check your return status online or over the phone. Having this information close at hand is necessary to start the process.

Check the Status of Your Return

It’s important to first check your return status before you check your refund status. You can do so over the phone or by logging in securely to your account on the IRS website. If you used an e-filing service to process your return, inquire about your status with that company. Many such services offer online log-ins where you can easily check your account. If you didn’t use an e-file service, you can call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1040. If you are lucky to speak to an agent during your first call, hopefully they will be able to tell you if there was a delay, and what the cause was. Often, the return simply hasn’t been processed yet.

Once you’ve confirmed that your tax return has been processed, you can check your federal tax refund status. If you opted for a direct deposit into your bank account, call the bank and see if the check has been deposited. If it hasn’t, a quick way to check on your status is to use the Where’s My Refund? tool provided by the IRS and you can track where your refund is at any time. The site is updated every 24 hours in the evening, so you can start checking it the day after you e-file your return (or a month after you’ve mailed it in).  You can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-1954 to determine where your check is and why it’s taking so long.

Reasons for Delay

Tax season is a notoriously busy time for the IRS: people are filing taxes, refunds are being processed and issues are being sorted. If you wait to file close to the deadline of April 15th, you could wait longer than if you filed a month or two earlier. In some cases, refunds and identities can be stolen. If you suspect suspicious activity as the reason for your refund delay, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-829-1040.

Often times, there are good reasons why your refund has been delayed. If you opted for a paper check from the IRS, expect to wait at least twice as long as if you did direct deposit. In order to minimize wait time in the future, plan on e-filing with a direct deposit option next year.

Volunteer IRS Sites Prepare 50% of Tax Returns Incorrectly

VITA Sites Still Preparing Tax Returns Incorrectly
VITA Sites Still Preparing Tax Returns Incorrectly

In a follow up to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), free income tax preparation sites have made no significant gains in increasing the accuracy of the tax returns they prepare. The new report states that Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites (VITA) who prepare income tax returns for low/moderate-income, elderly, disabled and limited-English-proficient taxpayers are still filing approximately 50% of tax returns incorrectly!

Of the 39 tax returns prepared for auditors during the 2013 filing season, 20 of them (or 51 percent) were prepared correctly, while 19 (or 49 percent) were prepared incorrectly. That represents a two-percentage-point increase over the 49 percent accuracy rate for the same number of returns in the 2012 filing season. The 19 incorrect tax returns resulted from incorrect application of the tax law, insufficient requests for information during the intake and interview process, or lack of adherence to quality review requirements.

While this is a small sample of the 3.3 Million tax returns prepared by over 90,000 volunteers across the country, it is still nonetheless troubling that TIGTA continues to find these types of accuracy related problems 2 years later due to “incorrect application of the tax law, insufficient requests for information during the intake and interview process, or lack of adherence to quality review requirements”.  TIGTA recommends–and the IRS agrees–that all volunteer instructors, return preparers, quality reviewers and site coordinators complete intake/interview and quality review training annually.  I am not sure what is more head scratching: that so many returns are being prepared incorrectly, or that these volunteers have receiving little to no training over the past two years since this problem came to light.

The VITA system is supposed to be helping those that are the neediest as a) they cannot afford professional income tax preparation and b) they need their refunds essentially to live.  In theory this is a vital service that needs to continue.  In practice, how do you motivate volunteers to devote more of their time (and possibly money) for training & licensing to put out a better product, yet receive no compensation? Furthermore, it sort of defeats the purpose of “helping” these taxpayers if their return is prepared incorrectly which potentially opens them up to delayed refunds, audits and penalties/interest. The old adage “you get what you pay for’ apparently applies here.

If you have had your return prepared at a VITA site, please let us know about your experience in the comments section below.  Plus, if you’ve had your return prepared in the past 3 years at a VITA site or any other tax establishment, and would like it checked for accuracy, contact an R&G Brenner professional today for a no obligation consultation, and we will review them for FREE!

Source: Accounting Today

Delayed NY State Refunds Ready By August?

NY State Says All Refunds By August
NY State Says All Refunds By August

According to the New York State Department of Finance and Taxation, the remainder of all delayed refunds should be ready by “early August”:

The wait for state tax refunds has progressively grown longer, reaching 12 weeks and beyond this year, said Phillip Goldstein of CPA firm Goldstein Lieberman & Co. in Mahwah, N.J. He blamed the delay on state labor cutbacks.

“They have fewer people working there, which is holding things up,” Goldstein said of the state. “And this isn’t just a New York issue. We’re seeing this in every state across the board.”

Geoffrey Gloak, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, cited the inexperience of a new vendor processing the returns, the New York State Industries for the Disabled.

“The tax department is assisting the vendor to both speed processing and provide quality assurance,” according to a statement issued by the department. “Recovery of the department’s costs associated with this effort and interest payments (to taxpayers) is provided for in the contract and will not come at an additional taxpayer expense.”

If you still haven’t received your refund from NY State, hopefully you will soon. Have you received your NY State refund yet?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Source: Record Online


August 5th:  NY State still has approximately 40,000 tax refunds to issue to NY state residents.  Tax Department spokesman Geoffrey Gloak recently said that these “…remaining refunds [will go] out in the upcoming days…”.  I guess it all depends on what their definition of “upcoming days” is.


October 9th:  All remaining refund delays to end as of today, Oct. 9th 2013. 

Government Shutdown Closes IRS Centers

IRS Offices Closed, But You Still Need To Pay!
IRS Offices Closed, But You Still Need To Pay!

With the failure of congress to pass a budget, 800,000 thousand workers face furloughs and a million more are working without pay.   The IRS is one of the agencies that will be closed with walk-in IRS centers shuttered and IRS Call centers closed:

The good news first: no audits! The Internal Revenue Service is suspending all audit activities while the federal government is shut down.

And that’s pretty much it for good news.

Here’s the bad news: if you’re on extension, your 2012 federal income tax return is still due on October 15, 2013. And yes, the IRS will cash your check on time.

But the door doesn’t swing both ways. If you are due a refund, it will likely be delayed (the extent of the delay is largely dependent on the length of the shutdown).

Walk-in assistance centers for taxpayers will be closed. Similarly, the IRS will not pick up the phones: all telephone hotlines would be closed.

Hopefully the budget dispute will be resolved quickly, but we are entering unknown territory as this shutdown is very different from past shutdowns, mainly because zero appropriations bills have been passed in the interim.  In other words, Republicans & Democrats can not even agree to pass the things they agree on; like paying our military service members.  This will almost certainly extend the shutdown and the pain of taxpayers trying to process their tax returns and receive their refunds.  Judging from taxpayer comments here, the IRS has not been very much help in expediting refunds or explaining delays before the shutdown.  But even paltry service is  better than no service at all….isn’t it?

Source: Forbes

NY State Still Dealing With Refund Delays

NY State Is Backlogged
NY State Is Backlogged

“Where’s my refund”! Is a common cry from NY State residents these days, and according to the state for good reason.  After using Bank Of America to process refunds for the last 18 years, BOA decided to get out of the  tax business all together and did not renew their contract.  So what was Albany to do?  Outsource the job of course!  These subcontractors and not-for-profit groups  are backlogged with refund requests which is what is causing the delay for so many New Yorkers.

It has been nearly 3 months since the end of the tax season and all refunds should have been processed by now.  Luckily, some NY taxpayers may be entitled to receive interest:

By law, interest is paid on refunds that are issued after May 30 for timely filed returns. Interest is paid only on that part of the refund resulting from over-withholding. To prioritize delivery of the delayed paper refunds, the tax department is assisting the contractor in both speeding up the processing and providing quality assurance. Recovery of the department’s costs associated with this effort—including staff overtime and interest payments—is provided for in the contract, and will not come at additional taxpayer expense, the tax department noted.

“In New York State, you’re required to pay interest 45 days after the filing due date of April 15, so beginning May 31 we’re paying interest on refunds,” said [NY State Department of Finance spokesmen Geoff] Gloak. “The interest goes back to April 15, so interest payments over time are provided for in the contract and won’t come at taxpayer expense.”

The majority of these delays are for taxpayers that filed a paper tax return as opposed to those who filed electronically, but there are still taxpayers out there that did file electronically waiting on their refunds.  No surprisingly, residents are mad including Fred Slater; CPA at the NYC firm MS1040 LLC; particularly that private taxpayer data is being handed over to a third party:

“I have all kinds of questions about how much information they were given to process [tax returns]. In other words, you’re giving your private information to a third party. What were they given? The state is doing everything in its power to push people to efile, and they repeatedly contradict themselves on this, and force things. Not all of the returns are efile-able to start with, by their own system restrictions, and then they go through this process of pushing you to efile, but their system is not up to snuff.”

If you need to get in touch with NY State regarding your tax refund click here.  If you require assistance with your NY State Tax Return, please contact an R&G Brenner professional today.

Source: Accounting Today

IRS Commissioner Fired Amid Scandal; Where’s My Refund!

IRS Commissioner Fired
IRS Commissioner Fired

By Benjamin K. Brenner, President

President Obama–through Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew–forced acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller to tender his resignation today following the recent disclosure that the IRS actively and unfairly targeted conservative and Tea Party groups applying for tax exempt status; a gross violation of a government body that is supposed to be above the political fray. 

The outrage has now reached a fevered pitch, with the FBI now getting involved with the investigation. While the President and his administration appears to be insulated from the fall out thus far, criminal charges may be forthcoming, with a key person of interest being Lois Lerner who is in charge of the Tax Exempt division of the IRS:

“Lois Lerner lied to me,” said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, who helped initiate the Congressional investigation of the I.R.S.

Ms. Lerner knew of the increased scrutiny given to Tea Party groups since 2010, but told reporters last Friday that she was not aware of any additional scrutiny given to any group and only heard about this through media reports.  She along with many other IRS employees are expected to be called in front of congress shortly:

The House Oversight Committee requested five senior I.R.S. officials be made available for interviews by May 20, including the director of rulings and agreements, Holly Paz; a former screening group manager in the exempt-organizations determinations division, John Shafer; and a former advocacy group manager, Joseph Herr.

“Potentially dozens of I.R.S. employees are involved with the original targeting, the failure to correct the problem and the failure to promptly report the truth to Congress and the American people,” said Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for Mr. Jordan.

While Mr. Miller–and what is sure to be others–has taken the fall for this scandal, one can’t help but think what involvement if any the previous IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman had.  Mr. Shulman had been commissioner since May 2008, and just recently stepped down last November.  He oversaw an aggressive agenda that made some of biggest changes the IRS has seen in decades.  While initially lauded, many of these changes have been riddled with delays, errors and met with contempt.

Mr. Shulman was integral in developing and integrating a universal licensing and annual continuing education requirements for professional paid tax preparers.  But these requirements were halted by a federal judge right before the 2013 tax season began citing that the IRS did not have the authority to implement these requirements.  The IRS appealed part of the decision, but again were overruled.  With millions of dollars already spent and industries spawned to provide these paid preparer requirements, it seems like a foregone conclusion that eventually they will go into effect; either by appealing the decision or by going through a body that does have the authority to regulate the industry.  Nevertheless, this new scandal will only serve to divert more time & energy away from this project, ultimately leaving the consumer to suffer the most.

Furthermore, Mr. Shulman led the charge in “modernizing” the IRS; particularly the Modernized E-File Program (MeP).  With the new MeP, taxpayers would get their refunds in a matter of days, not weeks; all while being kept abreast of their entire filing process with faster updates.  The only problem was that it didn’t work.  The MeP was put into effect for the 2012 tax season.  When it became clear that the MeP was not functioning, it was scrapped, and the IRS was forced to go back to their old E-File program for the remainder of the 2012 tax season.  This year (2013) the IRS fully replaced the old program with the MeP, but the tax season was already riddled by delays, due to the last minute fiscal cliff negotiations. At first, the MeP was working as advertised: refunds were being released quicker, and the IRS even claimed you could get updates on refund statuses every 24 hours. But since then its been glitch after glitch, culminating in what has been dubbed the “Education Credit Debacle“, where the IRS allowed hundreds of thousands of tax returns with IRS form 8863 to be filed early causing serious delays.  Some of the affected taxpayers could not even get verification that their returns were filed!  And the problems haven’t stopped yet.  As of the writing of this post, many taxpayers who filed in February & March still have not received their refunds and the IRS is offering no explanation.  Last but not least, the new MeP has done next to nothing to combat the explosion of Identity Theft and Fraud that plagued the IRS is recent years.  

Once again, it is the hardworking taxpayer that is getting the short end of the stick.  If we don’t file our taxes on time, penalties, interest, garnishments, liens, levies, etc. can be and are assessed.  But what happens when the IRS does not live up to it’s end of the bargain?  As of now, it appears nothing. Supposedly the IRS must pay interest after a certain date if they do not release refunds, but that date is not static.  All the IRS has to do (and has done) is send a “document request” like requesting a copy of your W-2s…EVEN THOUGH THE IRS ALREADY HAS ACCESS TO THAT INFORMATION.  I have yet to see a taxpayer actually receive interest from the IRS.  And the interest rate they supposedly give is far less than what IRS charges us if we are late.

While there is sure to be more to come out from this story, the politicization of it is not good news for anyone.  Some politicians have been searching for a scandal ever since Obama took office.  So now that they have one, how will it play out to a public so tired of other “scandals”?  It’s the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” syndrome.  And that is the crux of the problem.  While our elected officials have their hearings, while IRS employees start losing their jobs, and the midterm campaign season heats up, average American taxpayers of all stripes, creeds and political affiliations are ultimately the ones that are being ignored. 

Do you have an IRS horror story?  Share it with us in the comments section.

Source: NY Times

IRS Chief: Taxpayers To Begin Feeling Sequester Pinch

Cuts Are Hurting The Entire US Recovery; Not Just the IRS
Cuts Are Hurting The Entire US Recovery; Not Just the IRS

Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller stated recently, that taxpayers will soon start feeling the effects of the Sequester now that the tax season has ended.  Deep cuts to IRS Staffing will impact taxpayers calling the IRS, as well as the agency’s ability to combat fraud and collect tax revenues.

Treasury secretary Jacob Lew also chimed in by saying that for every $1 dollar spent on IRS collection activities, $6 dollars are generated.  Therefore, cutting back on the ability for the IRS to collect revenues would be short-sighted to say the least.  Miller Said:

“Without a change in the current budget environment, the American people will see erosion in our ability to serve them, and the federal government will see fewer receipts from our enforcement efforts…”

Mandatory furloughs for IRS works have already been put into effect as well.  While there was early hope that Republicans & Democrats would come together to avoid what many are describing as “self-inflicted” wounds, that prospect has dimmed significantly since we fell off the “fiscal cliff”.  Democrats are adamant about including revenues and spending on projects such as infrastructure & early education, while Republicans are standing firm about extracting just cuts.  Unfortunately for the G.O.P., this “cuts only” policy is starting to show it’s negative effects on our fragile recovery.  With the extreme austerity measures being taken in the E.U., the evidence has shown that it has hampered–not improved–growth.  

After two years in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress have fought to a draw over their clashing approaches to job creation and budget deficits, the consensus about the result is clear: Immediate deficit reduction is a drag on full economic recovery.

According to economists, the unemployment rate would be 1 point lower (6.5%) and U.S. economic growth would be almost 2 point higher, had congress not cut spending and did not let the payroll tax cuts for Social Security expire.

IRS Considers Delaying Refunds To Combat Fraud

Refunds Delayed Till Summer?
Will Refunds Be Delayed Next Year?

Acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller recently sat before a congressional panel and hinted that the best way to combat the explosion of tax fraud may be to either delay the tax filing season, or wait to release all refunds until after the filing season concludes on April 15th.

The reasoning goes something like this:  The vast majority of fraud involving income taxes occurs early in the filing season (January & February). Delaying the filing season will reduce fraud because a) It gives the IRS a chance to cross reference filed tax data with what employers are required to send to the IRS and b) There will simply be less time to perpetrate fraud and thus less cases.  Looking simply at the black & white numbers, yes this would seem like a good idea.  However, like the tax code, this is not a black & white issue.  Millions of honest taxpayers file their returns as early as possible because they really need the money.  These are usually lower-income taxpayers who depend on their refunds to pay bills, rent, and put food on the table.  When you consider the money spent for the holiday season, the urgency for these refunds is magnified.   Delaying the start of the filing season could seriously put these taxpayers at risk.

Another proposal involves waiting until after April 15th to issue all refunds.  That way every tax return can be reviewed and verified before refunds are released, and would virtually eliminate the majority of fraud cases.  However, under current IRS regulations, the government would be required to pay taxpayers interest on their delayed refunds.  This cost of combating fraud could outweigh the cost of the fraud itself.

Either way, it is very early to speculate proposed changes and whether or not they will be implemented. Nevertheless, if either of these proposals are ultimately implemented in full or in part, it appears the group that will be affected the most will be the lower income taxpayer.

Source: Chicago Tribune

IRS Admits Tax Return Processing Delays

IRS Addresses Delayed Refunds
IRS Addresses Delayed Refunds

As many taxpayers now know, this tax season has been anything but a walk in the park. The irresponsible last minute negotiations of our elected officials saved us from going over the fiscal cliff, but it also delayed the filing season by two weeks–the latest start to the tax season in history.  Even with the late start of the tax season, many forms were not ready to be accepted by the IRS.  Only last week did the IRS finally announce that all tax forms were ready to be accepted.  However, it appears the problems are now starting to show.

H&R Block (HRB) recently released a statement indicating that they mistakenly filed tax returns containing delayed forms too early.  Instead of receiving their refunds, HRB clients instead received a notification from the IRS.  Complicating this fiasco even more, is that some taxpayers refunds have been delayed but haven’t been notified.  When they contact the IRS or check the “Where’s My Refund” section of the IRS Website, they can’t even confirm that their tax return has been received or even being processed.  Furthermore, these problems are not limited to HRB clients.  Popular Do-It-Yourself tax programs like TurboTax and other tax pros are reporting similar delays.

@taxgirl reported that the IRS is attributing the problems to the revamped form 8863:

This weekend, the IRS announced that the revised form 8863 appears to be giving taxpayers fits. The revised form included check boxes at lines 23-26 which were added to confirm basic qualifications for taxpayers claiming this credit. They look like this:

Look familiar? According to IRS, if you don’t check the boxes, “there will be a delay in the processing of the taxpayer’s return.” Apparently a number of taxpayers are overlooking the check boxes, causing the delays.

It is still early, and I expect this problem to be more widespread and caused by more factors than are being reported.  When you factor in the delayed filing season, delayed forms, extra due diligence for lower income taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, the sudden and unexpected halt to the IRS’ Paid Tax Preparer registration & continuing education requirements, the IRS transitioning solely to it’s new Electronic Filing system and the well documented and increased instances of Fraud & Identity theft hitting the IRS, there is a recipe for disaster and some serious refund delays.  Stay tuned… 

UPDATE 3/12/13:

As many as 3 Million taxpayer could be affected by these delays.  What is most frustrating taxpayers is that they received notification that their tax return was accepted many weeks ago, yet when they check “Where’s My Refund” there is no information.  This is being dubbed the form 8863 “Debacle” by some.  The news is even worse for H&R Block clients.  HRB is claiming that the IRS did not make them aware of the changes made to the 8863.  So what was supposed to be a couple week delay is now taking “a few more weeks” on top of the initial delay.

Sources: Forbes & ABC