Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Case of the Tardy Refund Will End Well for Some

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Case of the Tardy Refund Will End Well for Some

Article excerpt

Karola Behringer has been filing tax returns and, until last month, had never been asked for verification of earnings and deductions.

That's why the "official-looking notice" the Clifton resident received from the New Jersey Division of Taxation requesting all sorts of information - including copies of her Social Security card, final pay stubs for all jobs worked in 2012 and copies of all her W- 2 and 1099 forms - came as such a surprise.

As if getting a letter from the Taxpayer Accounting Branch isn't bad enough, the letter said it might take 90 days to process her refund - a real bummer for someone who filed early.

"What's going on?" she asks. "It almost looks like a scam. How can they hold up refunds like this? Something seems to be very wrong."

Behringer is not alone. Early filers from across the state - including many expecting refunds of more than $1,000 - got similar letters.

This appears to be "a backdoor way of holding up refunds without New Jersey saying it is doing it" - a way for the state not to pay refunds in a timely manner, said Max Kalter of Ringwood.

Not so, says Treasury Department spokesman Bill Quinn.

It's a program aimed at preventing tax refund fraud and to find data entry errors, he said. "It is not a backdoor way of holding up refunds to keep state revenue from going out the door; it's to prevent fraud and to protect taxpayers. It's not an effort to manipulate payments."

As we wrote last Sunday, identity theft involving tax returns has been soaring nationally in recent years, aided by the convenience of online filing, so you can't fault the state for trying to stop it.

The screening program, started last year on a limited basis, involving only people receiving earned-income tax credits, was expanded this year "by focusing on any mismatch or discrepancy in the data we receive," Quinn said.

He declined to discuss the screening criteria, but 22,000 taxpayers who filed early and were in line for refunds received the letter, Quinn said. …

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