FOX 8 Defenders: Nearly twice as many LA tax returns placed under review

FOX 8 Defenders: Nearly twice as many LA tax returns placed under review

MADISONVILLE, LA (WVUE) - Madisonville resident Matthew Stewart filed his state and federal tax returns online and early in February. His federal refund came in right away, but more than three months later, he's still waiting for the state's refund.

"We got a letter from the state, stating that our return was going to be under review," Stewart said. He's one of more than $52,000 Louisiana taxpayers who's account is "under review" by the Louisiana Department of Revenue. The letter says the review detects errors and/or credits claimed, which require appropriate documentation. It goes on to say the process saves Louisiana taxpayers millions each year in refunds that should not be paid.

Stewart believes the delay has to do with solar tax credits. In addition to converting his a/c and heating and hot water heater from electric to gas, he installed a solar panel system last year that cost him thousands of dollars. "$25,000 for what we have on our house," explained Stewart.

Instead of the $167 energy bill he received last March, he paid only $18 for the same time period this year. "That was a really clear day, and it produced 31.7 kilowatts," Stewart said pointing out an online tracking system that details what his solar panel system generates each day.

While he's reaping the benefits of a more energy efficient home, he says he took out a loan to finance the $25,000 solar panel system, knowing tax credits eventually would cover 80-percent of the cost. The state credit equals 50-percent of the first $25,000of the cost of the system, including installation costs. The federal credit is 30-percent of equipment & installation

"I was concerned, what is the state doing, saying your tax filing is under review when, at the same time, we had gotten a letter from the IRS approving our refund of 30-percent from the federal government," Stewart said. Tax credits aren't the only reason your return could get a closer look. The Louisiana Department of Revenue says it places accounts "under review" for a variety of reasons from suspected fraud, which has become a big concern, to name and address changes and to taxpayer related errors. To date it's mailed more than 52,000 "under review" letters to taxpayers this season, nearly double the amount of review letters mailed last year.

LDR says the status of the state's budget has no impact on when taxpayers receive refunds. A revenue department spokesperson tells FOX 8 the returns are delayed because "the process involves a manual review of the identified return in question, and it is no longer a part of the automated, electronic process."

Because of that, the state asks taxpayers to allot 90 days for an account to be reviewed. Dated the end of March, Matthew Stewart may have to wait another 30 days. "I guess it can be nerve racking knowing that you have this big bill out there that has to be paid," he said. Just this week, he says he received an email from a state revenue tax analyst requesting documents to support his tax return, claiming solar credits.

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