Fields reports that 94 out of the 233 returns she’s done are still waiting for their checks. And that doesn’t include those who had their refunds directly deposited to their bank accounts. Fields says she has no way of knowing if those are late as well.
That’s because the IRS didn’t begin accepting returns until Jan. 30, says Mary Turner, an Enrolled Agent who is in her 15th year of filing returns for H&R Block. (Enrolled agents have passed a two-day test on tax preparation and is qualified to represent taxpayers before the IRS.)
The reason, Turner says, is that Congress did not come to a resolution on tax cut extensions until Dec. 30 and the IRS had to make software adjustments.
“[The IRS] was supposed to be live Jan. 22, but they delayed about a week. We were preparing returns, but they sat on our host until the IRS began accepting transmissions,” Turner says.
Turner says the IRS told H&R Block to advise its clients refunds would be delayed a minimum of 21 days, but some of their customers have already received their checks, she says.
“Usually it takes eight to 14 days to get a refund,” she says.
But Mark Green, spokesperson for the IRS in the Atlanta office, says 21 days is the norm.
“Last year nine out of 10 people received their refund in 21 days. But I was at a volunteer tax help phone bank [Monday] night, and people were telling me they got their refund in a week.”
Green did confirm that tax season opened late this year because of Congress’ delay in passing the American Taxpayer Relief Act.
“We had to update our software and make changes to the forms. And we had to test the software to make sure all the information was correct,” he says.
Green adds that those who have to fill out more complex forms—”a very small few,” he says—will not be able to file returns yet because the IRS doesn’t have the form ready. However, he says, these are filers that usually wait until the last minute to file anyway.
Brenda Branson, CPA at Branson Accounting & Tax Services says the federal tax returns that have been filed by her company have been “coming in a timely manner” if they were standard filings. Those with education credits, residential energy credits, sole proprietorships and a few other non-standard filings have taken more time.
And state tax refunds, Branson says, have been late across the board.
“But Georgia is typically a little behind the feds on returns,” she says.
Fields says there have been refund delays before from the IRS.
“We had one last year, but nothing like this year. It’s just a bigger headache than it’s ever been. People want to know where their money’s at and when they’re going to get it. I want them to get their checks as much as they want to get them,” she says.
For federal returns, Green says that if forms are complete and accurate, those who file electronically and use direct deposit should have their refund in 21 days. Those who file on paper and use the postal service can expect refunds in four to six weeks.