Tax refunds processing normally

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2019

As the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history continued on in January, there were concerns that tax refunds would be delayed because many IRS employees were furloughed.

However, the government reopened just in time for tax refund season to begin, and tax preparer Mary Kate Thomas said everything has been running as expected.

“Everything is running really smoothly,” Thomas said. “Even before the shutdown ended, the IRS did a really great job of communicating with us.”

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Thomas works with SaveFirst, a free tax preparation service that partners with Americorps and Troy University to help working families get the tax returns filed.

She said the first week has been nothing out of the norm and expects that the refund process will continue to be unaffected even if the government does shut down again.

“I don’t imagine they will be affected because the IRS workers recognize how important that is,” Thomas said. “They just might be furloughed.”

Thomas said the documents are usually accepted or rejected within 24 hours and the refunds are typically sent within three weeks.

The IRS says most taxpayers can expect tax refunds to be issued in less than 21 calendar days after filing. Last tax season, the IRS had processed nearly 18 million tax returns and disbursed $12.56 billion in tax refunds by February 2. The average refund was about $2,000. The IRS has not yet released statistics for this year’s filing season.

Local CPA Jay Shirley said that it did take a while to get in touch with an IRS employee when they first started filing tax returns last week, but that there has been nothing disastrous affecting the process. He said that he does expect the IRS will remain backlogged though and encourages everyone to file tax returns as soon as they have the required documents.

The tax refund may be the best reason for taxpayers to file early – but early filing can also help reduce a taxpayer’s chance of becoming a victim of tax fraud or identity theft.

Thomas said the free tax service is provided with help from student volunteers at Troy University who are certified by the IRS.

Although the main reason for the SaveFirst service being offered is to help families eligible for the earned income credit, Thomas said they can offer services to any working family.

The service is offered in the IDEA Bank downtown in the former Regions Bank building from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.