The state Department of Revenue reports it’s doing a better job of issuing income tax refunds sooner rather than later. But that’s little comfort to taxpayers eagerly awaiting their money.
As of Monday, the state had sent refunds to 1.3 million individuals totaling $710.7 million.
Last year at this time, the state had issued 1.1 million refunds totaling $607 million, said Beth Stevenson, a spokeswoman for Revenue Department.
In all, the state processed 10.6 million returns for individuals and businesses last year.
At least one CPA has seen an improvement in the state’s performance, but complaints continue to surface.
Revenue officials got refund religion last year when Gov. Bev Perdue ordered them to get taxpayers refunds within 45 days of receiving the tax returns. The order aimed to avoid a repeat of 2010, when the Revenue Department slowed the pace of refunds because of the state’s cash-flow problems.
That irritated taxpayers who didn’t take kindly to the state holding onto money they viewed as belonging to them.
The 45-day mandate remains in effect this year, which means it’s relatively early by the state’s refund calendar. Taxpayers who filed for refunds the third week of February or later aren’t yet past the deadline.
Moreover, the 45-day edict is accompanied by an asterisk. When the Revenue Department announced the policy last year it noted that exceptions would be made “for returns with errors or that are subject to review.”
Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Perdue, declined to comment on this year’s refunds.
Barbara Goble, 87, of Raleigh didn’t know about the 45-day target. She has been waiting on a $180 state refund since receiving her federal refund two weeks ago.
Both of her returns were filed electronically for her by the AARP on Feb. 23 – which means the sun hasn’t set on the state’s 45-day refund target.
Goble, a widow who lives on Social Security and a pension from BellSouth, said she called the Revenue Department last week to inquire about her refund.
“I figured a month was long enough,” she said.
But the Revenue Department employee she talked to could only confirm that the state had received Goble’s return.
“I wasn’t pleased with that answer,” Goble said.
On the other hand, David W. Harris, a Cary CPA whose business bears his name, said he’s heard from two clients who were pleased at how quickly they received their refunds.
In each case, the clients received their state refunds ahead of their federal refunds.
Lacy Tinnen, who owns eight Jackson Hewitt income tax outlets across in North Carolina, including one in Raleigh and one in Mebane, said his preparers have received “a few” complaints so far about the pace of state income tax refunds.
That, he said, is about average – and a significant improvement over the volume of complaints received two years ago when the state delayed refund payments.
The deadline for federal and state income taxes this year is April 17. For income tax returns filed on time, the state has a June deadline for delivering refunds. Beginning June 1, the state must pay interest on past-due refunds.
Last year, the state paid $179,889.55 in interest on 217,669 refunds. That was a major improvement over $1.3 million in interest paid on 417,737 refunds in 2010.
Stevenson said that, because of “computer system limitations,” the state can’t say how many refunds last year were paid later than the 45-day target.
Taxpayers who think this year’s refund is past-due should call 1-877-252-3052 “so we can check to make sure there are no problems,” Stevenson said.