Between Christmas giving and high energy bills, wintertime can be an expensive season for many homeowners. While proper attic insulation can save a homeowner anywhere from 10-50% on their heating and cooling bills, there are some expenses you simply can’t anticipate. For many Alabama residents, January federal tax refunds provide financial relief from holiday expenses, but due to a new law, nearly 500,000 Alabamians won’t receive those refunds until after the middle of February.
The law is intended to help reduce identity theft and fraud in connection with federal tax filings. Despite the fact that many people associate the high risk of identity theft with internet sources, almost 90% of all identity thefts actually utilize information gained from print sources. This new law is specifically geared towards those who have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on their filings. In order to subject those tax filings to closer scrutiny, the IRS will hold refunds until after February 15, 2017.
In 2015 alone, the IRS rejected or suspended processing for 4.8 billion suspicious tax returns. They successfully stopped 1.4 million returns that involved cases of confirmed identity theft, amounting to a $8 billion savings in fraudulent refunds. In addition, the IRS stopped $2.9 billion worth of refunds involving other types of fraud. In one year, they managed to protect $10.9 billion in confirmed fraudulent refunds.
In 2015, nearly 26 million people filed for these Earned Income Tax Credits. The average refund for an EITC in Alabama was $2,825 last year. The Additional Child Tax Credit, claimed by 22.4 million people throughout the nation last year, is worth up to $1,000 per eligible child.
Tax filers across the U.S. may be disappointed to learn that the IRS will hold the entire tax refund — not just the portion associated with these two tax credits — until after the middle of February. These precautions could also slow down other refunds because of the increase in returns being subject to additional review.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen stated that “this is an important change as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund. We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays.”
Once the February 15th deadline has passed, the IRS says that most refunds will be issued within 21 days of processing acceptance. Although many Americans choose to file earlier, the IRS will start accepting electronic tax returns on January 23rd, 2017. The filing deadline for 2016 returns is on April 18, 2017.