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State Governments, Seeking to Be Less Popular, Delay Tax Refunds

Taxpayers in Hawaii, Iowa, North Carolina, New York, and Rhode Island expecting a refund may have to exercise some patience, as these states have already declared their intentions to delay cutting those checks to its citizens. And don’t get to excited about receiving any interest on your already interest-free loan you gave them; many states have to withhold refunds for at least 60 days before interest has to be paid.

Pulling this type of a stunt will get you nowhere in a popularity contest but hell, they don’t really have much of a choice:

Scott D. Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, said that it was “exceptionally unusual” for so many states to delay refunds, as they have throughout the current economic downturn.

“I think it’s just an indicator of how bad things have been,” Mr. Pattison said in an interview. “It’s politically, obviously, a problem. Also, I think from a policy standpoint, it’s a little hard to justify — this is the taxpayers’ overpayment that is due them.”

Obviously this is going to cause some tea-baggish belly aching but it is pointed out later in the article, if taxpayers really want to do something about this problem, they have the ability to make some changes themselves to avoid this in the future:

Verenda Smith, a spokeswoman for the Federation of Tax Administrators…said she hoped the troubles would prompt more taxpayers to file earlier; file electronically, which allows for much quicker processing time; and change their withholding status with their employers so they would not overpay so much. “You really shouldn’t give it to your state government as a no-interest loan, and then have to cool your heels while you wait to get it back,” she said.

We’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating – adjusting your withholding to get a big refund is stupid. We’d say that the states keeping it out of your hands was probably a good thing but then again, the state can waste the money just as well.

Half a Dozen States Delay Tax Refunds [NYT]