According to the Peoria Journal Star, the Illinois Department of Revenue recently announced that it will be delaying income tax refunds until March 1.
While many people assumed that the change was in response to the budget impasse that has left the state without a spending plan for 2016, the department insists that it is part of an effort to crack down on fraud and identity theft.
“By delaying tax refunds by just a few weeks, we’ll be able to better detect attempts at identity theft and ensure taxpayer refunds do not fall needlessly into hands of criminals,” said state Revenue Director Connie Beard.
Beard added that anti-fraud regulations implemented last year saved Illinois residents nearly $5 million. Department of Revenue spokesman Terry Horstman claims that this most recent change is just another example of how Illinois is working to protect its residents.
“Illinois has been pretty proactive regarding this issue of fraud prevention,” Horstman said. “Other states might just now be getting into this.”
Many residents are displeased that they pay a state income tax in the first place, and on the heels of recent unrest throughout the city, the delay will likely be met with widespread condemnation.
Currently, Florida is one of only seven states that don’t collect an individual income tax at the state level, in addition to Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
Another state that also collects income tax is following Illinois’s lead in cracking down on identity theft. According to local Baton Rouge news affiliate KNOE, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) has extended refund processing time to 60 days.
Over the past two years, the LDR claims to have saved taxpayers over $25 million through its anti-fraud initiatives. Also, more than 50 individuals have been arrested for crimes related to tax season identity theft.
As for Illinois, residents who file electronic returns prior to March 1 should expect to receive their refund two to three weeks after this date. Returns submitted after March 1 will be issued two to three weeks after the return is submitted.
The delay is expected to affect millions of people throughout the state. In 2014, the year before any anti-fraud regulations were implemented, more than 1.3 million returns were filed in January and February.
This year, those who file their tax returns early will have to wait for their refund. However, filing early returns will give many people one less thing to worry about as spring approaches.