Wisconsin News

Tax refund delays affect spending

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Tax season is in full swing, but not everybody is getting their refunds as quickly as they expected.

Those delays mean many people are putting off the big purchases they planned to buy with those refund dollars.

Wettstein's sales manager Bruce Swanwick said he always knows when a customer has just gotten their tax refund.

"Because they come in and go, 'The lottery hit today!'" said Swanwick.


So far this tax season, he's seeing that happen less and less because of widespread refund delays. At Wettstein's, that means fewer customers paying up front for their purchases, and more of them opting for long-term payment plans while they wait for that refund to come their way.

"And they absolutely say, ‘Look, when I get my refund -- and I'm expecting it any day -- I'm going to pay this thing off,'" said Swanwick.

Downtown La Crosse H&R Block office manager Shelly Lamberth said it's mostly Congress' fault.

"Well, they were late passing legislation. It wasn't until Jan. 1 of 2013 that they actually passed tax law for 2012," said Lamberth.

The missed deadline for the fiscal cliff deal meant the IRS had to delay taking tax returns until Jan. 30. That's 15 days later than last year.

By the time Jan. 30 rolled around, there were still a lot of forms that weren't ready.

"The students who need to file for education credit or the parents of students who include education credit on their tax returns, those forms weren't ready -- that form for that credit wasn't ready until February the 14," said Lamberth.

That means those refunds won't come until March at the earliest.

For stores like Wettstein's, business is typically a little slower in February and March and the extra boost to customers' wallets usually helps push things along.

"Oh, we'd like to get it now. You know, we look at the whole year, but every month, you're in a little rush for trying to beat last year's numbers," said Swanwick.

Lamberth said it looks like individuals filing taxes should be in pretty good shape at this point. There are only a few forms that still aren't ready, like residential energy credit forms and adoption credit forms.

But forms for a lot of business-related credits still won't be ready until early March.

The IRS promises to send refund money out within 21 days of accepting a tax return.

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