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Fiscal Cliff Standoff Delays Tax Refunds
By Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC
Published: Feb. 11, 2013
DURHAM - Taxpayers shouldn't plan on spending their income tax refund too quickly this year, the government has warned.
Refunds are expected to be delayed for some taxpayers. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) explained it is a result of the last-minute fiscal cliff debate in Washington, D.C. That not only delayed the date returns could be accepted by about two weeks, but some tax forms are just being released this week – particularly those affecting some types of education tax credits.
Adam Rust, research director with the group Reinvestment Partners, a Durham consumer advocacy group, said the delay is tough for people who are struggling financially.
"People who were looking to catch up on bills might have been thinking, 'I'll get my refund in January and I'll have enough money to catch up and pay February 1 rent,'" he said. "That's really not going to happen."
In past years, an income tax refund took an average of nine days to receive for people who filed electronically. This year, the IRS said it could be as many as 21 days.
Kara Williams is the Taxpayer Assistance Coordinator for the Greater Durham Area. She said many of her clients are disappointed when they hear that their refund is delayed or they can't file yet.
"It's a hot mess," Williams said. "They think, 'Well, the longest I'm going to have to wait is maybe a week and a half.' But the IRS says taxpayers should generally expect it to take anywhere between 10 to 20 days. "
Until this week, taxpayers eligible for the American Opportunity Credit and the American Education Credit were not able to apply for those credits, because the forms had not been released by the IRS. Adding to the overall frustration is the January expiration of the "payroll tax holiday."
Free tax help is available to North Carolinians who earn less than $42,000 a year, in counties across the state. The locations are available at www.IRS.gov.