THE BLOG
10/29/2016 11:12 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2017

Long And Winding Path To Refunds

With the IRS processing refunds so quickly during the past few years, many of us have grown accustomed to receiving our big refund checks within a few weeks of filing. In the past, most of the burden was on the taxpayer to get their refund quickly - filing a complete return, without mistakes, on time, and electronically practically guaranteed a speedy refund - when one was due. Now, however, a number of changes in tax law and security systems will not only affect the actual processing of tax returns but will also delay the issuing of tax refunds.

First, let me start by saying there is nothing you, I, or the IRS can do to speed up the turnaround time on tax refunds on returns with certain tax credits. You may ask why. It's simple - it is now a law - passed in the noble pursuit of keeping all taxpayers and their respective refunds safer. The PATH Act changed the way tax returns with refundable credits are processed. Though the law won't cause a delay for every refund, it will for many traditionally early filers.

Beginning January 1, 2017, the IRS is REQUIRED to hold all refunds that include EITC, Child Tax Credit, and Additional Child Tax Credit until February 15. First thing to know is this does not mean you should wait to file. In fact, file like you usually do, and if you are not used to filing early, consider it this year. Filing early should still help you get your refund as soon after February 15 as possible. Secondly, know that this new law affects all taxpayers with the aforementioned credits. So if you do your own taxes, using online or off-the-shelf tax software or even if you use a Tax Pro, this delay impacts you the same as it will everyone else with these credits. The new law aside, there are a few things that you can do to help get your refund as early as possible.

Make sure your return is complete. Seems simple, but it is one of the most common causes for a delay in tax processing, which in turn, delays your refund. If you are mailing your return, make sure to include the paper copies of the appropriate forms and mail the return to the correct address.

Check your math; actually check all your numbers. One of the perks of using a Tax Pro or tax software is that calculation errors are almost non-existent. Another perk is the confusing phase-outs and other eligibility issues for exemptions and credits are considered - and those considerations are many and complicated. Make sure all the Social Security numbers on your return, and dates of birth in your return, are accurate. Finally, triple check your bank account numbers. An incorrect account or routing number not only delays the processing but IRS issues a paper check when your bank rejects or returns your refund, which adds even more time to the process.

File your return early and electronically. As soon as you have all your information, file your return electronically to help thwart identity thieves from using your Social Security number to claim a refund using a fraudulent return. If a return gets filed using your Social Security number, your refund, although it is the legitimate one, can be delayed for several months while the IRS validates your return.

The new PATH act tax rules and, in particular, the section that delays select tax refunds until February 15, may impact millions of taxpayers. Have heart, the new law is intended to help protect taxpayers by cutting down on tax fraud and, in most cases, even delayed tax refunds are only a few weeks away.

Know the rules, plan ahead, and research all the information you can about your options and what you can do in order to get your refund. It is your money - keep more of it and get it as fast as you can.