National Consumers League

Individual tax filings down in January; Consumers warned to beware of fraudsters taking advantage of processing delays

February 15, 2017

Contact: Cindy Hoang, NCL, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Beginning this year, a new law required the IRS to delay issuing refunds for certain taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Starting tomorrow (February 15), the IRS will begin issuing refunds for those consumers impacted, but has warned consumers that they should not count on seeing their refund until the week of February 27. 

This delay is believed to be responsible for a 78 percent drop in refund amounts compared to this time last year, leaving many asking: where’s my refund?

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, Vice President Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud at the National Consumers League. 

“This year’s delay may be why the IRS is seeing a significant decrease in the number of people filing returns as compared to this point on the calendar in previous years. Though the IRS will begin issuing refunds for Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit recipients starting today, it is important that filers know that, due to processing times, taxpayers may not receive their refund for another two weeks. A tax refund can account for as much as 30 percent of working families’ annual incomes. Thus, any delay in getting a refund can be a significant source of stress and, potentially, an opportunity for fraudsters or others to take advantage of consumers’ short-term cash crunch. If you are worried about the status of your refund, the best way to check is by visiting irs.gov/refunds or by using the IRS2Go smartphone app. While this won’t speed up the arrival of a refund check, it can help consumers better plan for any cash shortfall a refund delay causes.” 

Background

  • According to the IRS, there has been a 24 percent drop in tax returns filed compared to this time in 2016.
  • The official IRS2Go smartphone app is available in both English and Spanish on the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon. https://www.irs.gov/uac/irs2goapp
  • The IRS offers several no-cost options for taxpayers to prepare and file their returns and keep 100 percent of their refund. Consumers comfortable using online services and who made $64,000 or less in 2016 can use the IRS's Free File Program. Free File gives consumers free access to tax filing software from twelve leading tax preparation companies. For those who need more hands-on help and made $54,000 or less in 2016 there are free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs in their communities, which are staffed by IRS-certified volunteers.
  • The National Consumers League also released an infographic with tips to help consumers reduce their risk of tax identity fraud. 

###

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.