SALEM, Ore. - The deadline to file state and federal personal income tax returns — Tuesday, April 17 — is just a few days away, and the Oregon Department of Revenue estimated Friday that it will receive a few hundred thousand more returns between now and then.
More than 1.4 million Oregonians have already filed their state personal income tax returns. The department is expecting 2.2 million returns this year, said Ken Ross, manager of Personal Tax and Compliance Division’s Program Services Section.
Of those 1.4 million taxpayers, more than 961,000 have received refunds, with other refunds still in the queue.
While most returns are processed without issue, there are two key reasons why a refund may take longer to arrive than the taxpayer expects.
It’s a kicker year.
When there’s a tax surplus credit, or “kicker,” more returns are flagged for review due to calculation issues. Those issues are most commonly either a math error in the calculation or because of a change in filing status. If a taxpayer’s filing status changed from married filing jointly to married filing separately or single since their 2016 return, staff have to manually calculate what portion of the kicker goes to each taxpayer.
“Because we have fresh experience from a recent kicker year, we did adjust our staffing plans to take the additional work associated with the kicker into account,” Ross said. “But returns needing special kicker calculations may still take longer to process than other returns, depending on return volumes.”
Returns may need “manual review.”
There are a number of reasons returns may get flagged for additional review, including miscalculations on the return, misapplied payments, or missing documentation. Some of these can be corrected automatically, but others may require a request for more information or validation of the information by a staff member. This is the “manual” component of the review, and it adds to the time it takes to process the return and issue a refund.
Returns and refund requests that are flagged for fraud review also take longer to process. The goal of the department’s fraud review process is to detect instances of identity theft and tax fraud to protect taxpayers and state funds, said Megan Denison, who heads up the department’s fraud detection efforts.
Denison acknowledged that the additional time it takes these returns to process can be frustrating for taxpayers awaiting their refunds, and the fact that some taxpayers rely on that money is something the department keeps in mind when planning its fraud detection efforts before each return processing season. “We’re constantly working to strike a balance between getting refunds out to taxpayers in a timely manner and detecting and stopping as much fraud as possible,” she explained.
In 2017, 75 percent of returns were processed without needing any additional review, but if your return ends up in manual review status, you can do something to help it keep moving along.
“The best thing taxpayers can do is respond to any requests from the department as quickly as possible,” Denison said. Generally, taxpayers will receive letters requesting additional or missing documentation or asking them to take an identity verification quiz.
Do you owe taxes?
For those on the opposite end of the spectrum—owing taxes rather than getting a refund—the total they owe has the same due date as their return, April 17. Some taxpayers are granted filing extensions, which means their returns aren’t due until October. However, an extension to file is not an extension to pay; payment for taxes owed is still due by April 17. Interest on taxes due starts accumulating the day after the return is originally due.
To make a payment:
Online: Make an electronic payment from your bank account or by credit or debit card through Revenue Online at www.oregon.gov/dor.
In person: The department’s field offices can no longer accept cash, but they do still accept payments by check, money order, or credit or debit card. Cash payments are only accepted at the department’s main office in Salem.
By mail: If you’re mailing your payment, be sure to include a payment voucher so it can be appropriately credited. Visit www.oregon.gov/dor/forms for a blank personal income tax payment voucher (OR-40-V). The department’s website also has a list of mailing addresses for personal income tax payments. To avoid penalty and interest, your payment must be postmarked by April 17.
If you can’t pay your taxes, please contact the department as soon as possible. Based on your financial situation, you may be eligible for a monthly payment plan.
Do you still need to file your return?
File electronically. E-filing is the fastest way to get your tax refund. On average, taxpayers who e-file their returns and request their refund via direct deposit receive their refund sooner than those who file paper returns and request paper refund checks.
Free or low-cost options. There are many free or low-cost preparation options available for both federal and Oregon tax returns. Some software companies offer free software use and e-filing for eligible taxpayers. All Oregon taxpayers preparing their own return can file electronically at no cost using Oregon’s free fillable forms. AARP and CASH Oregon provide free and low-cost tax preparation services in local communities. For more information, visit www.oregon.gov/dor and click on the link for free tax preparation services under “Popular Topics.”
Earned income tax credit. You may be missing out on a bigger refund if you’re not claiming the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Eligibility information is available at www.irs.gov. Taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC can also claim Oregon’s Earned Income Credit (EIC).
Visit www.oregon.gov/dor to get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments, call (800) 356-4222 toll-free (English or Spanish) or (503) 378-4988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For TTY (hearing or speech impaired), call 1 (800) 886-7204. Due to the number of calls Revenue receives during tax season, you may experience extended wait times.