Direct Deposit Refund Rule: New for 2015

Nowadays almost everybody files their Federal Tax Returns electronically.  The IRS has encouraged e-filing for many years now.  It’s a win-win because the IRS can process electronic returns very rapidly and the filer is happy to avoid the delay and uncertainty of snail mail.  Similarly, most people who are due a refund elect to have that refund directly deposited into their bank account rather than having a paper check mailed to them.

Beginning in January 2015, there will be new direct deposit limits that the tax refund folks should keep in mind.  The IRS is limiting the number of electronic / direct deposit refunds that can be deposited into a single account.  The magic number is three.  The reason the IRS is limiting directly deposited refunds to three per account is to hopefully curtain fraudulent refunds which tend to come flooding into a thief’s account one after another.

Two refunds deposited into the same account is probably fairly common: I am imagining a married couple who file separately but share a bank account.  A little odd maybe, but not suspicious either.  Three refunds deposited into the same account is somewhat less common, I am sure.  But some families with adult children may fall into this category.  The IRS has drawn the line at three because it is hard to imagine a scenario where there would be too many more than three people who would chose to receive separate refunds in the same bank account.

The IRS says that the fourth refund in a scenario such as this would be sent as a paper check, and those wishing to avoid this result would need to use a different account.

FTB Holding $16 Million in Returned Tax Refunds

When you move to a different residence, do you immediately contact your creditors to let them know where you are?  Suuuure you do.  When you get around to it…

It’s no secret that some people spend their lives moving from place, just one step ahead of the IRS or other taxing agencies.  Although certainly not advisable, some people have good reasons for keeping their location a secret.  And then there are the others.  The brilliant 45,000 or so people in California who haven’t claimed their prior year state refund(s) yet.  The refund amounts range from $1.00 to $54,000.00 (total more than $16 million), and a majority of these people simply moved and didn’t update their address with FTB.  In other words, it isn’t so much that they haven’t claimed the refunds, but they were returned by the Postal Service due to the FTB having a bad address.

There is an easy fix to this problem.  Keeping your address up-to-date would be one way, but there is an even better fix.  DIRECT DEPOSIT.  If you use direct deposit for your tax refund, you get your payment so much quicker, and if you move you still get paid right on schedule (assuming you didn’t change banks).

The Dangers of the Split Refund Option

TIGTA has sniffed out another serious IRS problem.  The latest TIGTA report expresses Treasury’s concern with the administration of direct deposit refunds by the IRS.  More taxpayers than ever are taking advantage of this option because it is the most convenient and fast way to get your refund.  But this also happens to be the way many tax refund crimes are perpetrated:

Direct deposit is frequently the payment method used by individuals who attempt to commit filing fraud. Direct deposit provides the ability to quickly receive fraudulent tax refunds without the difficulty of having to negotiate a tax refund paper check. To cash a check, individuals usually have to provide picture identification matching the name on the tax refund check

~ TIGTA Report No. 2012-40-118

Specifically, the concern addressed in this report has to do with the splitting up of deposits into multiple accounts.  The IRS allows refund recipients to specify that the funds be deposited into one, two, or three accounts if they so indicate on Form 8888.  However, this option often invites foul play.  As a way of measuring the magnitude of the problem, TIGTA counted the number of times multiple refunds were deposited into the same accounts.  This method isn’t exactly perfect because there are harmless reasons for multiple deposits, such as in the case of joint bank accounts.   However, even ruling out these benign cases, TIGTA is finding that tax cheats are abusing the split refund deposit option.  For example, some tax preparers are illegally diverting funds to their own accounts to cover their tax help and return preparation expenses.