IRS: Tax refunds could be delayed next year

The IRS could be forced to delay tax refunds next year if Congress doesn’t strike a deal on dozens of expired tax provisions by the end of next month, the agency’s commissioner said this week.

IRS chief John Koskinen said the agency might have to postpone the 2015 filing season if lawmakers don’t act any sooner on the expired tax provisions known as extenders.

The uncertainty over the fate of the extenders, Koskinen said, has already raised “serious operational and compliance risks.” The IRS is currently upgrading technology systems, offering new instructions to customer service staff and revising forms in preparation for the next filing season, Koskinen added.

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“Continued uncertainty would impose even more stress not only on the IRS, but also on the entire tax community, including tax professionals, software providers, and tax volunteers, who are all critical to the successful operation of our nation’s tax system,” Koskinen wrote in a letter dated Monday.

The Senate Finance Committee cleared a bipartisan bill this year that would revive most of the temporary tax breaks that expired at the end of last year through 2015 — including incentives with broad support such as the credit for business research, and more narrow provisions that help NASCAR track owners and Puerto Rican rum distillers.

Senate Republicans blocked that bill this spring as part of their broader fight with Democrats over floor procedure, but GOP senators predicted that a deal on the provisions would likely materialize in the lame-duck session after November’s elections. 

House Republicans, on the other hand, have been trying to extend some of the provisions permanently, in particular the research credit and other tax breaks for business write-offs.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron WydenRon WydenRepublican chairman: Our tax reform plan fits with Trump's vision Post Orlando, hawks make a power play Democrats seize spotlight with sit-in on guns MORE (D-Ore.), who received Koskinen’s letter, said the IRS warning should prod lawmakers to quickly renew the expired provisions when they return to Washington just over a week after the elections.

“As the economy begins to show signs of strength, uncertainty from the federal tax code is the last thing American businesses and families need as they look to grow and invest,” Wyden said in a statement.

This is far from the first time the IRS has warned Congress about pushing back tax refunds. The agency delayed the 2014 tax season because of the previous year’s government shutdown, after pushing back the 2013 season to deal with the late passage of the fiscal cliff deal.

The problems for the filing season would be even more severe if Congress doesn’t reach an extenders deal before the end of 2014, Koskinen warned — “likely resulting in service disruptions, millions of taxpayers needing to file amended returns, and substantially delayed refunds.”