La. tax refunds to start going out next week

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Ron Rindone, right, helps Dale Neislar, of Denham Springs, with his taxes on Jan. 30 at Denham Springs Library. The library hosts free tax preparation for participants with an income limit of $50,000 for 2013. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Ron Rindone, right, helps Dale Neislar, of Denham Springs, with his taxes on Jan. 30 at Denham Springs Library. The library hosts free tax preparation for participants with an income limit of $50,000 for 2013.

Revenue secretary says office is about 3 days behind last year

Looking for your state tax refund?

The revenue department says they’ll start going out by the end of next week.

State lawmakers told revenue department officials Friday that they were concerned about the slow pace of Louisiana’s tax refunds, saying residents have been waiting weeks to get the money they’re owed.

“It does have an effect on our economy. Besides, people feel that money was taken from them on a weekly basis and now it’s time they’re due a refund and for some reason we’re holding those up,” said State Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, a tax consultant.

Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield, who wasn’t at the legislative hearing, said that refunds will begin flowing Feb. 28, a month after tax filing began.

“Refunds will start going out next Friday, and if you look at where we were compared to previous years, we’re about three days behind where we were last year,” Barfield said.

He said the agency was delayed by changes made to the tax processing system and by icy weather that shut down state government for a few days and slowed additional system tweaks. He also said the first batch of tax returns be held a bit longer for system testing.

“We’ll catch up with those pretty quickly,” he said.

Nearly 683,000 people have filed personal income tax returns so far out of about 2 million expected to be submitted. More than 504,000 refunds are being processed, according to the revenue department.

Barfield said he expects returns being filed now will take an average of about 10 business days for processing, the same as last year. But the department website suggests people shouldn’t expect the 10-day return time.

For a paper return, the website says it could take up to 16 weeks for processing. Returns filed electronically will be handled more quickly, but the department says online filers should still expect to wait at least 21 days after they submit their tax forms.

The issue of slow returns came up during the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget’s review of two contract extensions with companies that handle the state’s tax software system. Lawmakers used the appearance of revenue department officials to voice their complaints.

State Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, described a “lack of timely refunds to our constituents.”

“A lot of people are waiting for their refund checks,” Alario told Natalie Howell, undersecretary for the department. He asked her to “take the message back to the department to maybe give us some idea what’s holding up those checks.”

The Department of Revenue last year started using a new fraud prevention system, which delayed the start of refund checks at that time. But Barfield said that unless a tax return is flagged for possible identity theft or other concerns, the software should no longer be slowing down refund processing.