If your tax refund this year seems to take forever to arrive, education credits might be involved. The invaluable Kristy Maitre, former IRS Stakeholder Liaison and now with the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, has leaned that the IRS may delay refunds on returns claiming the “American Opportunity Credit.” From an e-mail she has distributed:
If your client is getting the American Opportunity Credit this year you need to be aware of a possible “refund hold” on the credit to verify attendance at the college. At this time we “assume” only that part of the refund will be held and the other part of refund not related to the American Opportunity Credit will be released.
At this time we are not sure who this will impact, IRS appears to want to keep it a BIG secret. Our concern is that the tax preparer will be blamed for the delay of the refund and overall it would make the preparer look bad as well as having to deal with an upset client due to the issue. I was able to find some criteria in a new IRM, but we need more information from IRS.
Your client should be informed by IRS of the reason the refund is being held and that once the 1098-T from the accredited institution is verified the refund will be released, or they will receive a Letter 4800C to inform them if further documentation is required to allow the education credit…
The AOTC is a “refundable” credit; if the credit exceeds the tax computed, the IRS will pay you the excess. Given the high incidence of refund fraud involving refundable credits like the AOTC, it’s understandable that the IRS would want to verify eligibility before issuing a refund.
Unfortunately, this verification will come from matching 1098-Ts issued by colleges and universities. These forms, which purport to show tuition paid, are notoriously unreliable. The inevitable matching errors will leave some taxpayers trying to get their refunds fixed well into the summer.
This highlights the unwisdom of using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. It’s hard enough to get taxable income right. Congress also assigns IRS education policy, health care, social welfare, industrial policy, campaign finance regulation, you name it. Like with the Swiss Army Knife, you can only add so many functions before you make it bad at being a knife.
Delays in refunds for some taxpayers. People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week — or possibly longer — to see their refund. Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.
It’s foolish of Congress to pile work onto the IRS and then cut its budget. That said, Mr. Koskinen has brought a lot of this on himself with his combative and tone-deaf response to the Tea Party scandal.
Also, there’s a bit of the Washington Monument Strategy in his memo, by making cuts in areas that inflict pain on taxpayers. I would be more convinced that the IRS is really committed to making taxpayer service a priority if his list of budget adjustments included sending to the field, or laying off, the hundreds of full-time IRS employees who do only union work. He would be more convincing if he said the “voluntary” preparer regulation initiative was on ice until funding improves. Instead, the Commissioner puts the National Treasury Employees Union and his own power grab ahead of processing refunds.
In addition, I am offering legislation creating the Student Debt Reorganization Tax Credit. This tax credit allows individuals to volunteer for worthy causes within Iowa’s communities and in exchange have contributions made toward their student debt.
There is so much wrong with this, beyond the idea that it’s “volunteering” when you get paid for it. It’s one more random addition to an already ridiculous mishmash of distortive and unwise education subsidies. It’s one more incentive for students to take on debt they can’t otherwise afford. And it misplaces human capital from productive for-profit enterprise to the black hole of the government and non-profit sector.
Iowa Form 148 already lists 32 different tax credits. The Governor thinks adding some more is the solution to Iowa’s problems. I think the credits are a big part of the problem, as they help make the Iowa tax law the complex high-rate mess that it is.
William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?
Jason Dinesen, H&R Block Doesn’t Really Have ACA “Specialists” On Staff. A bold charge, but a convincing one.
Peter Reilly, Can Walgreen Stance On Property Tax Hurt Income Tax Position Of 1031 Investors? Thoughts on getting too cute in analyzing the value of a real estate interest.
Leslie Book, Can IRS Change Taxpayers from Procrastinators to Payors By Drafting Letters that Make Taxpayers Feel Bad? (Procedurally Taxing). Usually people feel bad when they get a letter that says “notice of levy,” but that’s not what he’s talking about.
David Brunori, Using the Poor for Fixing the Roads (Tax Analysts Blog):
The Michigan Legislature passed a bill that would significantly increase the state’s earned income tax credit. Some 800,000 Michigan families will see tax relief. I think that is a good thing. But the change won’t go into effect unless voters approve a sales tax increase from 6 percent to 7 percent.
I don’t share David’s enthusiasm for the EITC, but I do appreciate the absurdity of the sales tax link.
Kyle Pomerleau, Representative Van Hollen Releases New $1.2 Trillion Tax Plan. “Unfortunately, most of Representative Van Hollen’s tax plan would move the U.S. further away from having a competitive, modern tax code.”
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 615. This installment covers a Tea Party group that has been waiting five years for Lois Lerner’s old office to approve their exemption application.
Career Corner. Age and accounting as a second career (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)