Could Your Tax Refund Be Late?

Do you rush to get your tax return done early? Did you know that some IRS refunds will be later than usual this year? If you get the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) you may have to wait longer than usual to get your return.

I have a few friends that every year rush to file their taxes in the middle of January, banking on getting their return in time to pay their February rent. But starting this year certain refunds will not be released until Feb. 15th.

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What’s the reason for the change? It’s actually to help prevent fraud. In the past few years there has been a sharp increase in tax fraud, especially in cases with the EITC and ACTC since those refunds can be a sizeable amount. Someone files using another person’s name in January or February and gets several thousand dollars back. Then the actual individual files their taxes (not knowing anything about the fraud) and they are surprised when they get a notification from the IRS saying their taxes were already filed and their refund check was cashed.

So, here’s the details:

In general, the IRS sends refunds within 21 days. Starting this year they are mandated to hold all refunds with either Earned Income or Additional Child Tax Credits. Here’s the other important part, February 15th is when they can START to release these refunds. “However, the IRS cautions taxpayers that these refunds likely won’t arrive in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of February 27 (assuming there are no processing issues with the tax return and the taxpayer chose direct deposit).” See the IRS website for more information.

Wondering what the status of your refund is? Use the Where’s My Refund page on Or check out the IRS2go app.

If you’re not an early filer, or aren’t counting on your refund showing up before the end of February, this shouldn’t impact you at all. In fact if you always wait until the last day, you actually get some extra time. Tax day is extended to April 18th, 2017 because of a holiday in Washington DC.

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Are Credit Cards a Trap?

Much of my view towards money and spending came from watching my parents. I think this is pretty common.  We learn good or bad habits and then we either follow in their footsteps or do the exact opposite.  It is a common theme with kids and parents.

So, while I didn’t end up totally following my parent’s good examples, I still credit a lot of the good habits that I have to them.  (Not saying all my habits are good, but some are.)  Of course there is also the fact that I married young, while still in college, and so some ways of spending came from my husband and his history as well.

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One message I received from my parents loud and clear — NEVER carry a balance on a credit card.  Luckily I didn’t get one when I started out in college, I bounced a couple of checks those first few years and that was a good lesson to learn about managing my money.  So it wasn’t until after we got married that I figured we should get a credit card — in case of an emergency on a road trip — or to rent a car.

We got a card with a small annual fee since we didn’t have much credit history but it had a little cash-back incentive also.  At first we only used it a little bit each month to keep it active and build up credit.  But after a while we started using it for almost everything, especially gas and groceries, so that we were at least getting the cash back, and always paid it off every month.

A little over a year into our marriage we needed to buy a vehicle that we could fit a car seat in, ha!  We traded in our pickup for a (very used) mini van and rather than take out a loan we put the balance on our credit card.  Why?  Well it was less than our credit limit and we knew that we could pay it off within three months.  So Yes, we did pay some interest that time but it was a lot easier than getting a car loan for just a few months and we knew exactly when we would be able to pay it off.  I think we may have done something similar 2-3 more times over that last 20 years but other than that we have never had any credit card debt.

Now, don’t let this story fool you, we have not made perfect decisions over the years by any means.  There was a bankruptcy thanks to the real estate crash, but that’s a story for another day.

In the months when money was tight I was much more careful not to use the credit card and I would just stick to using a debit card.  It’s always better to lose out on a few dollars of cash back than end up paying much more in interest.  Usually my cards have had interest rates that were quite high, but that never concerned me since I would almost never end up paying them.

What exactly did I learn from my parents?  Credit cards are tools to be used appropriately.  They are a dangerous tool much like a chain saw, in the right hands it does the intended work without injury, but if in the wrong hands….  credit cards are great for helping to improve your credit score, to be used in case of an emergency, and to get rewards like airline miles or cash back.  But without a clear plan on how to use them, well we have all heard the stories of how that can end.  So yes, they can be a trap, but if you know what you are doing you can actually make money off of them instead.

How about you?  What did you learn from your parents about money and credit?  Did you end up following their example (good or bad) or going the opposite way?