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Refunds delayed for some early filers this tax season


Are you among the many Americans who file your taxes early so you can get your refund sooner? If you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) and expect to receive a refund, you’ll have to wait until after mid-February to get it.

That’s because a new law passed late last year. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) says the IRS cannot issue credits or refunds for an over-payment before Feb. 15, 2017 for any filer who claims the EITC or ACTC.

If you don’t file either of these credits, the IRS says your refund will likely be processed in the typical time frame of 21 days.

Refunds delayed may mean less fraudulent returns

While news of a delayed refund may not be music to your ears, the reasoning behind it is good. This change gives the IRS more time to review income tax returns and prevent fraudulent returns from being processed.

Too often, fraudsters file bogus returns before the actual filer can complete their taxes and claim credits like the EITC and ACTC.

Both the EITC and ACTC are refundable tax credits, which are particularly advantageous because they are beneficial even after reducing your tax liability below zero.

If the amount of these credits is more than the amount of taxes due, the difference will be given back as a tax refund.

Savvy criminals know that – and input numbers to make it look like they should get more money back.

Will you be affected?

If you file early and claim either of the credits noted, you may be affected.

If you’re not sure, start by determining whether you qualify for the EITC. You may be eligible to claim the credit if the following is true:

  • You have earned income
  • You, your spouse (if you’re married) and any qualifying children have a Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Your filing status is married filing jointly, head of household, qualifying widow(er) or single
  • You are a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year, a nonresident alien married to a U.S. citizen or a resident alien and filing a joint return
  • No one else can claim you as a qualifying child for the EITC
  • You do not have foreign earned income
  • Any income earned from interest, dividends or other investments is less than $3,400

If you do not have a qualifying child, you must:

  • Be between the ages of 25 and 65 at the end of the year
  • Have spent at least half of the year living in the United States
  • Not be the qualifying child of another person

The ACTC is based in part on the Child Tax Credit (CTC). A nonrefundable tax credit, the CTC allows you to claim a credit worth up to $1,000 per qualifying child. If you owe less income tax than the amount of the CTC amount, you may be able to claim the ACTC.

You can take the ACTC, a refundable credit, even if you owe little or no income tax. To qualify, you need to have earned more than $3,000 in income. Click here to learn more about the ACTC.

TaxAct can help you determine if you’re eligible for both of these credits. Simply input your information into the product, and it will calculate the credit for you.

Three tips to get your refund faster

  1. File early. It’s a good idea to file your return as early as you can.Fighting the urge to procrastinate will land you closer to the front of the line when the IRS starts processing returns. And that means you’ll get your refund faster if you’re due to receive one. Plus, filing early reduces the chances that a criminal will use your personal information to file a phony return. Remember, if someone gets access to your SSN, they can file a return in your name. Safeguard your SSN and file your taxes early.
  2. E-file your return. Mailing a paper return can take several weeks longer to process than filing electronically. Filing your taxes online is faster than penciling numbers onto paper forms, and the IRS will process your return – and refund – quicker.
  3. Choose direct deposit. If you’re due a refund, you’ll get it sooner if you choose the direct deposit option rather than waiting for a check.In addition, the process is super easy – you just wait for your refund to show up in your bank account!

Take control now: review your withholdings

There is plenty of time left in the year to review your withholdings and make adjustments.

If you’ve had too much withheld so far this year, why not change your payroll tax withholding now so you get more of your own money for the next few months?

It may be a better option than waiting longer than normal for your refund.

It’s easy, too. Just fill out a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and change the number of your exemptions.

Usually taking more exemptions means less tax is withheld from your paycheck and more money goes into your pocket now.

If you want more money withheld, take fewer exemptions.

If you’re nervous about making the right adjustments, TaxAct makes it easy. Just sign in to your account and navigate to the “Next Year” tab at the top of the page.

After answering a few questions, print your new Form W-4, and submit it to your payroll department. That’s all it takes to make a difference in your finances.

TaxAct makes preparing and filing your taxes quick, easy and affordable so you get your maximum refund. It’s the best deal in tax. Start free now or sign into your TaxAct Account.
About Andrew T.

Andrew Townsend is a tax analyst at TaxAct.


  1. Antoinette Davis says:

    How much is the EIC for each minor child this year ?

  2. Laura Enriquez says:

    Does the tax credit for buying a car is given only if the car was paid in full or it doesn’t matter if your financing it too?

    • Hi Laura! If you are referring to the sales tax deduction on a new car, it does not matter if you financed the amount or paid in full. You can deduct the sales tax either way. Just remember, if you did finance the purchase, interest payments are not deductible. Thank you!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I have a POA for my god son. What classification do I give him when filing, foster kid?

    • Hi Elizabeth, Having a POA does not necessarily allow you to claim a child as a dependent. It depends on the number of months the child lived with you during the tax year. If your child does qualify as your dependent, you would claim him simply as your grandson not a foster child. Thanks!

  4. tiffany wright says:

    What if i owe state will they take my federal or just state?

    • Hi Tiffany! The IRS is delaying all refunds in order to combat any tax fraud so you will have to wait until they start release returns if you file before that date. Thank you!

  5. Lucy Glass says:

    When can you efile your taxes this year

    • Hi Lucy! TaxAct started accepting e-files on January 6, 2017. While the IRS does not begin accepting returns until January 23, 2017, you can complete your return and e-file through our system before then. We will submit to the IRS, however you will still have to wait until they begin processing returns before you receive any refund owed to you. Thank you!

  6. I’m not sure where my question went i don’t see it so I’m going to ask it again. is this tax delay only affecting early filers?? typically I don’t get my paperwork to file my taxes until close to the 12 after the 12 somewhere around there and I usually file on the 15th or the 16th what is the expected delay for someone filing on the 15th or the 16th? How exactly is this delay working is it going out of the effect after the 15th and everything will be back to normal or what’s the deal?

    • Hi Jennifer! The IRS does not officially start processing returns until January 23, 2015, therefore you will have to wait for your return to be processed until then. The delay does affect early filers as the IRS is working to combat tax fraud by completing extra checks on returns claiming the EITC or ACTC in order to ensure those returns are not fraudulent. Once they start sending out any refunds owed, you can expect the same wait time as in years past. Thank you!

  7. I have a child in college and I don’t qualify for EIC , will my refund be late . Don’t think I qualify for the Child Tax Credit Either ..

    • Hi Gloria, if you are not planning to file your tax return early and claim the EITC or the ACTC then you do not need to worry any delay. Thank you!

  8. Hi,
    My husband and I recently married, but we’ve been filing our taxes as “Married Filing Jointly” because of the common law marriage in our state. Will we have any issues when we file this time around? I did take his last name.

    • Hi Blanca! You should not experience any issues as long as you updated your name with the Social Security Administration so they can identify who you are when you submit your return under your new name. Thank you!

  9. heidi johnson says:

    Hi! I filed the adoption credit last year (2015) however, it doesn’t help me because I never owe after I file. My question is there anyway I can use that tax credit to my advantage? thank you.Heidi

  10. Deborah Bradley says:

    We have had foster children for 7 months in2016. Can the other parent claim for 5 months?

    • Hi Deborah! No, the parents cannot claim the children. Claiming them dependents is an all or nothing deal – only one person (or husband/wife married filing jointly) can claim them in a given year. Thank you!

  11. I have a couple of grand children that are with me in and out throughout the year and it adds up to approximately 7-8 months that I have them. Can I claim them on my income tax. The mother is unemployed and does not file an income tax that I know of.

    • Hi Zara! The best way to determine who you can claim as a dependent is by using our Dependency Assistant tool in our product. It’ll walk you through various questions to help you figure out if your grandchildren meet the dependent qualifications. You can also view the qualifications here. Thanks!

  12. I bought a new car this year. Do i get a tax credit for that?

  13. Curtis Harrison says:

    OK so what if you file the same dependences every time. Will that still make your return take a longer process.

    • Hi Curtis, The number of dependents does not affect this delay. The delay has been put in place by the IRS to help combat fraudulent returns that often occur early in the tax fling season with returns that claim the EITC and the ACTC. Thank you!

  14. I start a business this year did not earn any money from it but i put money in the business should I file the business

    • Hi Luvada, The first question we would need to ask is if you received any money at all while operating the business. If you intended to make a profit through the business, received money but ultimately experienced a loss, you should file and deduct the expenses. If you didn’t receive any money through the operation of the business, then you don’t need to file. Thank you!

  15. When will you all have your TaxACT 2016 online? So we can start filing.

    • Hi Dorothea! We started accepting e-filed returns on January 6th! So, feel free to jump in and get started! Thank you!

  16. Amy Pettis says:

    I filed my state taxes this year and I still haven’t received my refund. Why hasn’t it arrived into my checking account? If I file late, I have to pay a penalty, so will the state increase my refund for being late?

  17. I have a custody order. Where would I fax that after I file my return?

    • Hello! Custody orders are a matter outside of the tax return, so therefore, we are unable to provide feedback. Thank you!

  18. If I am now the custodal parent of my children since August on paper but they hve been living with me since May. Can I claim them this year or does my ex have the right to claim them? I know shes going to try to claim them as well.

    • Hi James! The best way to determine if you can claim your children as dependents is to use our Dependent Assistant tool available within our product. The tool will walk you through a series of questions to help figure out if your children meet the dependency qualifications for you. You can also view the dependency qualifications here. Thank you!

  19. Monica Wade says:

    Hi, so if we are anticipating those credits, can we still file early when they start accepting in January 15

    • Hi Monica, Yes you can file your tax return as soon as you would like. Just know that the IRS is going to take a bit longer this year to process returns in an effort to better combat tax fraud. But, as always, the sooner you get your return submitted, the quicker it gets in line to be processed. Being early is typically always a good thing!

      • What is the earliest in Jan 2017 tax returns for 2016 will start being accepted by the IRS?

        • Hi Jana! The Internal Revenue Service announced they will officially begin processing returns on Monday, January 23, 2017. Thanks!

      • If I have a court order where if my ex owes arrears child support after Feb 15th I get the tax deduction of our 17yr old. So if we both file and claim our son, but he still owes child support on the 15th, who will the IRS give it too?

        • Hi Michelle, Unfortunately, only one of you can claim your child on your tax return. If both of you claim him/her, there’s a very good likelihood the IRS will reject the returns, so you will want to make sure you are in agreement as to who will claim the child. Outside of the tax return, we are not able to provide insight into the rest of your question. Thank you!

        • How can I get my gross income from 2015? I have misplaced my 2015 W-2.

  20. Tavia Meria Caldwell says:

    This year we’re purchasing a home for the first time…What type of tax credit will we receive?

    • Hi Tavia, Unfortunately, there isn’t a credit at this time for the purchase of a new home. A few years ago there was a First-time Home Buyer’s credit available, however that no longer exists. Thanks!

      • What about homestead exemption? I purchased my first home in March and was told by the realtor that I could benefit from homestead exemption. Please advise.

        • Hi Marsha, Being that homestead exemptions are not dealt with on the federal level and are only handled at the state level, we are not able to provide clarification on how it will affect your tax return from the information you’ve provided. That being said, homestead exemptions do not particularly apply to the post. Thank you!

  21. If your information has not changed for the past 15 plus years far as your job and your dependents that you claim does the wait time still affect you for the EITC and ACTC?

    • Hi Dawn,

      Yes, the delay in processing refunds is designed to help the IRS combat fraudulent returns, so it does not have anything to do with a filer’s tax situation. While waiting a bit longer than normal is something no one ever wants to do, the intent is to keep honest taxpayers refund money safe from any criminals trying to file a fake return in their name. Thanks!

  22. Margaret Mosley says:

    Is there any safeguard to do if someone filed a fraudulent return in my dependent’s name last year

  23. J Garth Jr says:

    Thank you Andrew and TaxAct for so many helpful tips. I appreciate the always reliable filing services that are being offered as well!

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