While I love to share the latest gossip…this is not gossip friends, this is truth!  While most of you are used to receiving your state tax refunds in 7-10 business days, this year you might have to wait six to eight weeks! That’s right. But before you stress out and think something is wrong, let me tell you that it’s for your own good. The high prevalence of identity theft in the state, paired with third party preparers’ security breaches, rampant tax fraud, and refund theft have caused the Georgia Department of Revenue to take additional measures this filing season. Did you know last year the state blocked more than 65,000 fraudulent returns, saving more than $312 million and this year it’s using new fraud management systems to block even more? Of course we ALL want our refund like ASAP but this frustrating delay really is for your best interest.

Josh Waites, Director of the Department of Revenue’s Office of Special Investigations, states, “our primary goal is to protect the taxpayers of the State of Georgia. We determined from the 2015 filing season that the additional time between the taxpayer filing their tax return and receiving their refund allows us to better detect fraudulent returns, and ultimately get the refund to the individual it belongs to.” When a return is flagged for not fitting the systems’ normal patterns, a filer will probably be contacted to verify their identity. These additional steps to prevent fraudulent returns takes more time, and thus a delay in receiving refunds. But wouldn’t you rather receive delayed funds than someone else receiving them on your behalf?

What is tax return fraud and how can I prevent it from happening to me?

Tax return fraud occurs when someone uses stolen information to file a tax return and receive a refund. A victim is usually unaware of the problem until a legitimate return is rejected because a return has already been filed with the same Social Security number.

My professional suggestion is to file your return early (before an illegal return can be filed,) and keep your information confidential to reduce your chance of being a tax return fraud victim. Also, you can change your withholdings to receive more of your money during the year, not just in a refund. If you are worried about the security of your personal information, visit the Georgia Tax Center (https://gtc.dor.ga.gov) and set a notification for when a tax return has been filed with your Social Security number.

Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN)

In some cases, the IRS is issuing a special six-digit code to use on your tax return, in addition to your Social Security number, to verify your identity. Confirmed victims of identity theft are required to use the codes and filers in high-fraud areas such as Georgia are able to receive a code. Be aware that when you opt in you will get a new PIN each year through the mail and you can’t opt out.

If you have questions about this year’s delay or any other tax-related concerns, you know where to find me.  Someone on the team at Buffie the Tax Heiress will be happy to schedule an appointment.  Also, don’t forget to check out my latest feature on WSBTV where I am discussing this year’s refund delays.  http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/state-tax-refunds-could-take-six-times-longer/nqZ5g/