There are just a few weeks left until tax preparation season kicks off, and today the Internal Revenue Service had some bad news for families that receive the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit: they will not receive their tax refunds until the end of February.
About 40 million Americans receive one or both of those credits, which generally means that they get a nice refund back. That’s the problem: identity thieves have been using taxpayers’ personal information, sometimes going as far as to steal their W-2s and past tax returns to claim refunds on their behalf.
Hoping to stop some of these refund checks from flowing out of the country to people who aren’t entitled to them, IRS commissioner John Koskinen announced today that the agency will be scrutinizing tax returns claiming these credits more closely, delaying them until the end of February for the earliest filers.
The IRS claims that it has made progress in blocking fraudulent refunds, but that’s why it needs to delay those returns, even if it means delaying payments to the working poor.
Tax preparer H&R Block has promised interest-free loans to cover the extra waiting period for its customers, and other preparers will probably offer similar solutions for families who are anxious to receive their tax refund money. People with simple tax returns and modest incomes can easily file for free online.
Yet the tax preparers are ready to help do their part to help their customers and help the IRS keep refunds out of identity thieves’ wallets. The IRS estimates that it paid out $3.1 billion in fraudulent refunds in 2014.
“All of the players in the industry are sharing information against the common enemy, which is organized crime,” the president and CEO of H&R Block told the AP.