By Amanda L. Richter, CPA
Here are a few reasons you might have received a tax notice instead of your refund…
After completing the dreaded task of filing your tax return, you may be pleasantly surprised to see that you are due a refund but received less than what you expected. Or even worse, you might have received a tax notice from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) instead of your actual refund.
The Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service issues Federal tax refunds and operates the Treasury Offset Program. Through this program, your refund might be offset due to the following debts you and your spouse owe:
- Federal or State taxes for a prior year
- Past due child support
- Federal agency non-tax debts
- Certain unemployment compensation debts owed to
If you and your spouse do not owe any of the debts listed above, here are several common reasons for the change or delay in your refund:
- The IRS needs additional information to verify a credit or deduction that was claimed on your return
- The IRS adjusted your return and believes you made an error
- The IRS is looking into another one of your returns
- You or your spouse were a victim of identity theft
If your refund was reduced due to an outstanding debt, you can contact the agency with which you have the debt to determine if your refund was used to offset the amount owed, or you can also contact the Treasury Offset Program at 800-304-3107. If your refund was used to offset the debt, then you will receive a notice explaining the decrease in your refund. You do not need to contact the IRS unless your refund shown on the offset notice differs from the refund reported on your tax return.
Notices from the IRS can be stressful and confusing, so it is important to review it carefully to see why your full refund was not issued. If you have questions or concerns regarding the information reported on the notice, it is always recommended to speak with a tax professional to help you understand the notice and guide you through the next steps. You can also contact the IRS at the number listed on the notice you received to receive additional information regarding your reduced refund.
Ask Kit Kat: Bald Eagles Rebound
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about bald eagles around the Chesapeake Bay?
Kit Kat: Well, there is very good news indeed about bald eagles in the Chesapeake Bay along the Atlantic Ocean Coast! The 1970s were a terrible time for them. Their numbers were significantly reduced then largely due to pesticides. Contrast that to today when 302 eagle nests were counted in this year’s survey of the James River, a major tributary of the bay. In 1980, on the other hand, only 1 nest was found. According to Bryan Watts, co-founder and director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary, “We’re sort of in the golden age of fish-eating waterbirds for the bay.” Other birds, too, have rebounded—osprey and blue heron, for example. In fact, Watts believes the bay may have more water fowl now than was present in the days of Capt. John Smith and the Jamestown Settlement.
What is responsible for such a dramatic change? First of all, they are protected, so they’re not being hunted. According to Watts, “We don’t consider them competitors for muskrats or for fish, and so we’re not killing them.” Protection came about through the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The other reason is that the use of pesticides was stopped. DDT was a major culprit, and also the insecticide Kepone, which was dumped illegally in the James River. From 1975-1979, no breeding pairs of eagles were found near the James River. Then, in 1980, one pair was discovered. Use of pesticides had ceased in the early to mid-70s. It took several years for them to recover, but recover they have! In 1990, there were 18 nests; in 2000, there were 57. By 2018, the number had risen to 289, and in 2019, it had risen further to 302!
Bald eagles are monitored twice yearly. It is a mandate of the US Fish and Wildlife Service since 1977 which established the Chesapeake Bay Bald Eagle Recovery Team. They used to survey Virginia’s entire eastern coast, but since 2016, they only monitor the James River. Recovery is now obvious, so they gather information on the James as a spot check. The first check is done in late February or early March before leaves hide the nests, and then in late April to decipher the number of eggs/chicks. Scientists are not sure whether the number of bald eagles has peaked. Maryland stopped surveying in 2004 when their count revealed 400 breeding pairs. In any case, it is evident bald eagles have rebounded along the Chesapeake Bay, and that is terrific news! (Tamara Dietrich, “Bald eagles are back, tallied in unprecedented numbers around the Chesapeake Bay,” The Virginian-Pilot, July 11, 2019, p. 1 &4)