Covering Louisiana

Feb 21, 2014 4:53 PM by AP

Lawmakers question slow pace of La. tax refunds

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Filed your tax return and expecting a refund? You may be in for a long wait.

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 Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, a tax consultant.

The state Department of Revenue last year started using a new fraud prevention system, and its website warns tax filers that the software slows down refund processing. Agency officials have described it as an upgrade that will save the state millions in dollars that could otherwise be lost to fraudulent tax claims.

For a paper return, the department website says it could take up to 16 weeks for processing. Returns filed electronically will be processed 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 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 lodge their complaints.

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

Natalie Howell, undersecretary for the department, said she didn't have information for lawmakers about the pace of refunds checks and deposits being issued.

"A lot of people are waiting for their refund checks," Alario told Howell. He asked her to "take the message back to the department to maybe give us some idea what's holding up those checks to get those out."

The revenue department didn't immediately return a request Friday for information about the average wait for a refund this year, compared to previous years.

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