Homeowners Still Waiting on IRS Refund

9 years 17 hours 10 minutes ago Thursday, December 09 2010 Dec 9, 2010 Thursday, December 09, 2010 4:22:51 PM CST December 09, 2010 in News
JEFFERSON CITY- Josh and Sarah Shewmaker are frustrated with the IRS for still not delivering a check they were promised months ago. The couple spent two years saving to buy a new home. "We really, really went over all our options to make sure we were in the right part of life to afford a house payment," said Sarah Shewmaker. An incentive offered by the federal government encouraged them to buy a little earlier than planned. The federal government offered a $8,000 tax credit for first time-home buyers who closed from January 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010. "We definitely would have waited longer, to save more, but who wants to miss out on $8,000?" asked Sarah Shewmaker.

The Shewmakers, who have three children, closed on their home June 30th, 2010. They said they sent in their paperwork July 1st. When the IRS received their paperwork on July 13th, the Shewmakers said they indicated it would take six to eight weeks until they received their refund. The Shewmakers said those weeks came and went and they called the IRS who then told them it would be another 12 to 16 weeks. Sarah Shewmaker said they called on the 17th week and were told it would take 30 more days. "We explained we'd been waiting for quite sometime and we were starting to get a little nervous. They reassured us 30 more days we would have something," said Sarah Shewmaker. Just when the 30 days began to run out the Shewmakers got a letter. "We got a letter from the IRS stating it would take 45 more days from the date on the letter which was November 24th," said Sarah Shewmaker.

The Shewmakers are not alone. They said they've seen hundreds of people posting on the internet that they too are waiting for their refund.  Leslie McMillen has owned his own tax service for 43 years. He's had several clients still waiting on refunds. "This particular refund, the IRS is taking much longer than any other refund," said McMillen.

When KOMU contacted the IRS, it said due to privacy laws it could not comment on individual cases.  It also did not acknowledge a delay. Instead it suggested homeowners go online to the "Where's My Refund" section or call a tax advocate.

The Shewmakers say they've done all of that.  Josh Shewmaker is upset with the lack of help the tax advocate provided. "He told me it's not money that's promised to us. But I said, 'yea it was the incentive to buy the house.'"  It's an incentive the government used in hopes of stimulating the economy. Now it's creating financial hardship for the people who bought into the program.

"It's really stretched us to the limit financially, not being able to pay off what we planned to pay off," said Sarah Shewmaker. "We think of how many people are in our position that have kids, first time homeowners and are struggling," she said. McMillen said he's seen the similar hardships for his clients, "There's the financial burden of having not gotten the refund when they expected it. They expect 2 weeks to a month after they file it, they'll have it, and it's not happening. Sad to say."

Andrew Zumwalt with the University Extension helps people file their taxes. He said around 30 first-time homeowners filed through his office. He thinks the changes to the tax law could be cause for the delay. "IRS has trouble taking Congress's law and putting it into effect that quickly, whenever we make changes to the tax law, problems can arise," said Zumwalt.

The Shewmakers know the IRS is backlogged but they searching for some explanation. "We understand there's a backlog but I think everyone in our position deserves some answers and to have the problem corrected," said Sarah Shewmaker.

It's a problem McMillen said he hasn't seen before, "Every year has its own problems but this housing thing has probably been drawn out the longest of any situation. McMillen said the IRS has asked some of his clients to send in more information, but that's not the case with the Shewmakers.

"I've continually asked them, 'is there anything you need from us to help speed up the process, are we lacking anything?' They've reassured us that they have everything they need," said Sarah Shewmaker.

Zumwalt speculates a delay could have something to do with the lack of technology. "All those returns had to be paper filed and so you've got someone having to sift through all this paper and enter it in, it's just another complication," said Zumwalt. But he added the delay should not be as long as the one the Shewmakers are experiencing.

"We had every bit of faith in our government to come through with this and it just hasn't happened," said Sarah Shewmaker.  They're concerned after all this time, they might not get it. "Until we see that money were not gonna believe were going to get it," said Josh Shewmaker. The couple says they're not going to give up. "They haven't heard the last of me," said Sara Shewmaker.

Eric Schulte is the president of the Jefferson City Area Board of Realtor. He's also seen first time homeowners experiencing delays. He said in cases where people have finally, received their tax credit the IRS gave them what they were owed plus the interest of the wait. Zumwalt said that is common of the IRS.

But the Shewmaker's say even if they do get interest, it will be too little too late. "It doesn't make up for all the other financial burdens we've had waiting for the money," said Sarah Shewmaker.

Greg Spurgeon with the Missouri Housing Department said it offers loans specifically for people waiting to get their first-time home buyers tax credit. The loan can be paid back once a homeowner receives their refund. He said the department has seen people who are also experiencing the same problems as the Shewmakers.

At this point, the Shewmakers say they're not even sure if a refund exists. "It is beginning to feel like a scam. You know, let's rope all these people in to stimulate the economy. We've done our part now, where's the reward we were promised?" asks Sarah Shewmaker. Her husband agreed, "There was an incentive for us to do something, we did it and not were not getting the reward we were suppose to get."

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