'Processing error' leaves income tax refunds in limbo

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By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

PHOENIX - “I have an awesome job. Very proud of it.”

Todd Lattin is a pilot for a major airline.

When he isn't flying the globe, he spends his time at his home in north Phoenix.

“I love it,” he said. “I can't wait to get home sometimes. It’s nice to sleep in your own bed and eat my own food.”

Todd bought the home in 2008, the same year Congress passed the stimulus package.

That allowed first-time home buyers, like him, to receive a tax credit of up to $8,000.

Because of his income, Todd qualified to get just $352, which he tried to collect this year.

“At the time you know, I thought, this is great. I'm actually going to get something back from the government,” he said.

But more than four months after filing his taxes, Todd says that $352 credit is stopping him from getting his entire refund check of more than $5,200.

“I thought it was a good deal at the time. You know, I didn't realize the headaches that I was going to be having and the frustration that I was going to be having in the long term,” Todd said.

Why the delay?

The IRS says their systems became overwhelmed this year and, in an effort to curb fraud, is taking its time to make sure refunds go to the right people.

Adding to the delay, CPA Shauna Wekherlien says those eligible have to file by mail which can increase processing time by months.

“We're only having about 20% of our people actually getting refunds back in what used to be a normal time frame,” she said.

Shauna says the best way to get an ETA on a refund is by checking the IRS website.

Todd says he's done that for months, and submitted all the necessary paperwork, but his check date keeps getting pushed back.

So, he emailed 3 On Your Side.

“It's just like you’re stuck in the mud and just spinning the wheels,” Todd said. “Everybody's watching and nothing's happening.”

3 On Your Side contacted the IRS, and while it wouldn't go into specifics about Todd's case, his $5,200 refund finally showed up in his checking account.

Todd says he can't believe it, that when it comes to getting his money, without 3 On Your Side’s help, he'd still be flying solo.