BATON ROUGE – In response to the recent increase and still unfolding developments centered around fraudulent tax returns filed across the country, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced today that the Department is taking extra precautions to verify the filings and refunds of taxpayers and will extend the date to begin issuing refunds by one week, until the week of March 2.
“Given the increase in the filing of fraudulent tax returns around the country, where criminals are stealing identities and claiming refunds in others’ names, we decided to implement additional security measures this year to ensure we detect any suspicious activity, and to protect the identities of our taxpayers,” said Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield.
The extended period will provide the Department with more time to closely review returns and to utilize its identification verification process for individual taxpayers when and if inconsistencies in returns are identified.
While identity-based tax refund fraud is still a relatively new problem for revenue departments in the 43 states where taxpayers file tax returns, the Department of Revenue is ahead of the curve. Over the past two years, LDR has prevented over $11 million in fraudulent tax refunds from going out the door. Also, through a joint anti-fraud initiative with the state Attorney General’s office, 40 people have been arrested for fraudulent activity.
“We recognize that this situation places an undeserved burden on the thousands of taxpayers who consistently do the right thing. It is unfortunate that at this time the good taxpayers will suffer for those who have chosen to be criminals,” added Barfield. “This is the very reason why the Department of Revenue must do all that we can to safeguard our taxpayers against this type of fraudulent activity.”
Taxpayers who have concerns about the security of their personal information provided to any third party tax preparation software vendor should contact that vendor immediately. Taxpayers who have a reason to believe they may be a victim of identity theft can contact LDR’s Criminal Investigations Division on its fraud hotline at 1-866-940-7053. They can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
LDR began accepting returns on January 20, and was originally scheduled to begin issuing returns on Tuesday, February 24. To date, the Department has received 664,956 electronic returns. On average, the Department processes 1.9 million electronic returns during the tax filing season. The backlog of refund requests received is expected to take a week to complete processing. Once the Department is current, normal processing times of 21 days for electronic returns and 10 weeks for paper returns can be expected.
Taxpayers can check the status of a refund by visiting www.revenue.louisiana.gov/refund.