CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those working at the West Virginia State Tax Department could see an estimated 100,000 pieces of mail in the coming days — mostly paper tax returns postmarked ahead of the Apr. 18 tax filing deadline.
As of Tuesday morning, the last day of the tax filing period for 2016, the Tax Department had received about 615,000 returns electronically along with 60,000 paper returns that were sent in via the mail.
Matt Irby, director of the Department’s Tax Account Administration Division, estimated that before the midnight deadline, 30,000 additional returns would be submitted electronically with another 60,000 coming in on paper.
“This tax season started out a little slow,” Irby reported Tuesday.
“I think the IRS claiming that they were not going to issue refunds for several weeks at the beginning of filing season delayed the filing of those returns, but they all started to pick up in March and we’re pretty much on pace with, at least, each of the last five years.”
For 85 percent of the people filing electronically and due refunds in West Virginia, processing and refund payments could take an estimated two to three weeks with refunds getting to those who elect to receive direct deposits the fastest.
For the other 15 percent filing electronically and requiring additional review, the refund wait may stretch as long as eight to ten weeks, possibly more than ten weeks, based on the number of last minute filings.
“Those are usually due to calculation errors, something that we need more information on or we think that that may not be the taxpayer and we want to take a closer a look to make sure that it’s not fraud,” explained Irby.
Paper filings usually take even more time to process — possibly 12 weeks or longer.
The status of state refunds can be tracked HERE.
All West Virginia income tax returns go through identity theft fraud detection as well as accuracy checks before refunds are issued. In some cases, additional verification is required.
The goal, Irby said, is to process filings as quickly and efficiently as possible. “We work about 60 hours a week or so during this time, probably through the end of May,” he told MetroNews.
Due to state budget cuts, Irby said tax workers are relying more on tax software checks and verification letters to complete reviews of returns.
This year, the West Virginia Tax Department ended mailings of 1099-G and 1099-INT statements to taxpayers for an estimated savings of $80,000.
Those statements, used by taxpayers who itemize deductions on their federal returns and to note additional income, are available for download online. West Virginia residents without internet access were asked to request the paper statements by phone.
Walk-in services, including personal preparation assistance, were also scaled back at department offices this year. Free filing help was available through a number of nonprofit organizations including Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly.
About 80 percent of tax returns in West Virginia are filed electronically, though Irby noted paper filings usually pick up near the end of the filing period.
“A lot of people just do not like the idea of putting their personal information and submitting it electronically,” he said.
Overall, “The most common mistake is math,” Irby said. “Particularly on paper-filed returns, you just have a lot of math errors.” The second most common tax return mistakes involve withholding reportings, he said.
Tuesday night, Apr. 18, was the deadline to file both federal and state tax returns or extension applications.
The deadline was pushed to Tuesday because Apr. 15 fell on a Saturday and Monday, Apr. 17 was a holiday, Emancipation Day, in Washington, D.C.