Important tax-refund changes could cause delays

ATLANTA — The state of Georgia is taking new steps to protect you from having your tax refund stolen, and trying to keep the state from being ripped off at the same time.

The state is now demanding employers send every W2 by the end of January. Employers used to have until the end of February. Employees’ returns will not be processed until their information is verified.

In years past, the state trusted what each taxpayer gave them and started paying refunds, increasing the chance for fraud.

“We want to make sure that not a single dollar goes out the door to someone that isn't entitled to it,” Georgia Revenue Commissioner Lynne Riley said.

She says the latest changes are part of an ongoing effort to reduce tax fraud, which costs the state millions, and individual taxpayers even more, in addition to the headaches.

"Unfortunately, it's growing every day. The criminals know that a computer keyboard is now the new tool as a way to try to get somebody else's money away from them,” Riley said.


The state will no longer pay a refund until the W2 you submit is matched with the one from your employer to validate for accuracy and your identity.

"We've made a determination based on all of the fraudulent attempts that have occurred in recent years that we must verify the data that's presented to us on a return,” Riley said.

She recommends adjusting your withholdings to make your refund smaller and less attractive to fraudsters. She also says you should file early to beat them to it.

By registering online, you can be notified when a return is filed using your identity.

"In the event that it is not theirs, we can block it and protect them immediately,” Riley said.

First-time filers, and anyone who hasn't filed in five years, will have to get a paper check refund mailed to the address on their return. The state will also watch for too many returns at one address.

"Criminals tend to want a direct deposit. They can move that money rapidly elsewhere and we'd have a hard time capturing it,” Riley said.

Given the new earlier deadline the state won't start processing returns until after Jan. 31st.