Fraudulent Tax Filings Boost Security, Slow Returns in W.Va.

An increase in fraudulent filings prompted the West Virginia State Tax Department to increase verification measures. The changes have caused a substantial backlog for those waiting for tax returns.

by Phil Kabler, The Charleston Gazette / April 2, 2019
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(TNS) — Jeff Krauklis, a technology systems specialist with Clay County Schools, said he e-filed his son’s state and federal tax returns on Feb. 6.

“He had his federal refund in four days,” Krauklis said Monday.

Meanwhile, they waited and waited for his state refund.

“The return is not complicated — one employer, standard deduction,” he said.

Krauklis said he went to the Tax Department website to check the status of his son’s return, and found an explanation for the long delay.

On the webpage’s interactive tool to check refund status, Krauklis found this advisory: “The West Virginia State Tax Department is responding to an increased risk of fraudulent filings, and is implementing enhanced security measures for your protection. As a result, expect significant delay of your tax refund. You should only call concerning your refund if it has been more than 10 weeks since filing your return.”

Krauklis said that, while he understands the need to address fraud, “There are thousands of low-income families and individuals who are counting on their tax refund.”

While Krauklis is one of a number of readers who have contacted the Gazette-Mail about long waits for state tax refunds, Deputy Tax Commissioner Lydia McKee said the time it is taking to process returns this year is only slightly longer, on average.

“It does take time, but I think it’s worth it to maintain the integrity of the system,” she said Monday.

She said the Tax Department takes a number of steps to verify taxpayers’ identification and to single out possible instances of identity theft.

“There are several things that could flag a return,” she said.

“We do have times when somebody will file, and we have to get in touch with that person and say, ‘We already have a return in your name,’ ” McKee said of fraudulent returns.

McKee said the enhanced security measures are not new but that the department adds new safeguards each year.

“It does take a little longer to do refunds, but we think that it’s important,” she said of security measures.

She said one common reason why taxpayers receive federal refunds more quickly than state refunds is that many people file federal returns electronically but mail in the state return since many e-filing sites charge for state returns.

“We realize people are waiting on their refunds,” she said, “and we’re trying to do it as quickly as possible.”

©2019 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.