Congressional blunder

Published 8:32 pm Saturday, December 29, 2007

By Staff
Congress gets blamed, and deservedly so in many instances, for causing and/or failing to remedy problems faced by American taxpayers.
Well, Congress is to blame for something that’s going to upset several million people.
More than 3 million taxpayers will have to wait until February to receive their tax refunds because Congress was late changing the alternative minimum tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The change should have, and could have, been made in time to allow those taxpayers to receive their refunds before February.
Last week, Congress placed a one-year freeze on the growth of the alternative minimum tax, which shields many middle- and upper-middle income taxpayers from first exposure to the tax. The late fix means the IRS will not be able to begin processing five AMT-related forms until February, delaying potential refunds for those taxpayers until February.
There’s not much, if anything, the IRS can do to remedy the problem. Congress should fix the problem. After all, it created the problem. Sometimes it seems Congress is much better at creating problems than solving them.
Up to 13.5 million taxpayers must wait until Feb. 11 to start filing with the five AMT-related forms, but the IRS said filing patterns show only between 3 million to 4 million of those people file during the early tax season anyhow, according to an Associated Press report.
Members of Congress better hope most of those taxpayers don’t suddenly remember they are voters, too. For if they do remember, some members of Congress could become ex-members of Congress after the next round of elections. In some taxpayers’ minds, it would serve those members of Congress right to be kicked out of office.
It’s heartening to taxpayers getting some help from at least one source.
Tim Gokey, an executive at Kansas City, Mo.-based H&R Block Inc., the nation’s largest tax preparer, suggests there might be ways for people to increase the speed of their refunds, according to the AP.
IRS officials are recommending taxpayers file their tax returns electronically to receive faster refunds. Taxpayers who file electronically and get direct deposits into their accounts may expect refunds in 10 to 14 days, while those who file with paper forms may expect to wait six weeks for their refunds.
It’s heartening to see the IRS offer something, even if it is only advice, to taxpayers instead of taking from them. IRS officials are working with producers of tax-preparation software and tax professionals to make sure their information is as up-to-date as possible.
Taxpayers will are paying the price for Congress’ tardiness in taking care of the alternative tax minimum matter. Taxpayers are required to file their tax returns on time. It’s a shame some of those taxpayers won’t get their refunds as early as they expected to receive them.
What would happen to those taxpayers if they were late filing their tax returns? They would be in trouble.
Congress should be in trouble for dragging its feet. Some voting taxpayers may just provide that trouble come Election Day.