“In other words, if DC owes you a refund and needs additional documentation or information from you, they won’t reach out to you”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

“Dear PoPville,

Two weeks ago, I “ranted” about not getting my DC tax return despite having filed a month prior. A bunch of people replied saying they were having the same problem. Last week, I called the DC tax office and the customer service person told me that they needed a copy of my W-2. I asked him why I hadn’t received anything from the office indicating that they needed additional information from me, and he told me that DC doesn’t reach out to people unless the taxpayers owe DC money. In other words, if DC owes you a refund and needs additional documentation or information from you, they won’t reach out to you. You have to reach out to them. Glad I called and waited on hold for an hour to speak with this person because I sent him my W-2 and just received my return. Just wanted to pass on this FYI to anyone who hasn’t seen their tax return yet!”

51 Comment

  • Mailed in my additional documentation first week of February. Still haven’t received my return. Went to the tax office last week and the customer service rep said that refunds should be out by tomorrow. The system is a joke.

  • This is just one experience and will invite everyone who has not immediately received their DC tax refund to block up the phone lines and make that hour wait longer.

    Last year, I did receive a letter saying they were withholding my refund until I submitted certain docs. So… they do send letters to residents. Just putting my experience out there to counter.

  • OMG are you kidding? I just gave up and reported my fight to get my refund, since August, to the OIG because it’s crossed over into harassment and bullying by the government. I tried to be nice for months – but not only did they not issue my refund (while changing reasons multiple times), but they then sent me a bill! My story is bordering on saga status…I guess I’m happy to hear it’s a larger problem than just me. I wonder wondering why they were being so cruel to me…

    And I work for the (Federal) government – it’s not like I don’t understand paperwork, underfunded departments, and the need to keep good records! Maybe I’ll share my experience when I get some word from the OIG.

    • It’s absolutely a tactic designed to get a certain percentage of people who have, say, misplaced copies of the info requested to fail to reply – and they can (apparently) keep the refund.

      It’s likely quasi-illegal, since none of the information they request isn’t information they have already.

      I’d complain to the appropriate Federal authority (i.e., not inept DC offices), if I knew exactly to whom to complain.

      • You can try Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office, but don’t expect much from her.

        Putting on my former Hill staffer hat, I’d reach out to the House Government Reform Committee – there’s a subcommittee that does DC oversight, and people not getting tax refunds is red meat to Republicans. Not sure it would help the case for statehood though, so weigh your options.

        • EHN is a good one, the Mayor as well – it’s not like they’ll pick up the phone and call you, but they have staffers who do send out standard letters…and the employees generally have to respond. The danger is facing retaliation – but I’ve started with the OIG. I will see what happens there and have the Mayor / CongressEHN in my mind for next.

          And I really am sad to feel this is my best route.

  • Last year they held up my refund without reaching out to me as well. Lucky I had the ability to just go down to their office at the SW Waterfront Station to sort it out.

  • This is a completely unsurprising overreaction to the ID fraud they got caught up in last year. DC gov’t reaction isn’t to put in place better controls like address verification on refund checks (but it looks like they do that anyway by sending letters?), it’s to make taxpayers jump through additional hoops to get their refunds. Doing otherwise would mean more work for city employees, and lord know we can’t have that!

  • Tax Return != Tax Refund

    • Your tax return is the paperwork or electronic file you send them. If you are owed money back it is a tax refund. Pet peeve.

  • Same thing happened to me last year. I waited 2 months before calling, spoke to the woman, emailed the form they needed and I had my refund in 5 days. I can imagine its a lot of work to reach out to all the people they need additional information from, so I don’t really fault them for pointing the responsibility onto the person wanting their refund.

    • umm no – it is their job to do this – taking a long time to reach out to people would be one thing, but I’m fairly certain they are required to reach out AND if it is past 60 days or so they owe you interest (I got interest last year when I didn’t get my refund until Dec).

    • It shouldn’t be “work” at all. It should be automatic. It’s not as if they come visit your house, they mail an automated letter.

  • DC OTR is a completely and utter joke. I’ve had a similar on-going saga and even though I have did receive a letter and sent the information in promptly, there has been no sign of a refund. The online system said to check back in 7-10 days and I submitted my return and the additional almost two months ago. I have called repeatedly (waiting on hold forever or being turned away because their lines are exploding with calls) only to receive absolutely no helpful information (because one department apparently has no access to the other department’s system with the additional relevant information) and then being routed to another department that never answers. It makes me wish I didn’t have to pay the city because this department is terrible at what they do and completely incompetent.

  • They do this crap every year. I have already gotten my refund for this year, but last year I didn’t get it until Dec and it took multiple phone calls and various people telling me all kinds of nutty things (none of which I ended up having to do btw).

  • Seems like the solution for next year, if possible given your tax situation, is to just barely underpay your taxes during the year. At least you won’t have to hunt around for a refund. Just be sure that you don’t underpay by so much that you earn a penalty.

    • +1 It’s usually smart tax strategy to get as close to zero as you can anyway, though that matters less in a near zero-rate environment. If it’s less of a hassle to cut DC a small check than to risk having to spend personal time chasing down a refund, it sounds like the better route time-wise as well.

    • +100 This will be my strategy for this year.

  • Question, if the DC gov needs more info do you still get that message that says they accepted your return? This is my first year filing in DC, and I used HR Block for my fairly simple filing. Everything went through fine and I got my refund (in a check instead of direct deposit like I requested, they claim as a fraud deterrent), but I”m wondering for future years if you get any indication something is up. I mean, if it tells me it’s accepted and I should be expecting a refund, I would never suspect additional info was needed.

    • I filed through HR Block as well and got a letter that i needed to send in additional information. I did that over a month ago and haven’t heard from them since.

    • The paper check for the first year is an actual thing that they have done for at least two years now. As long as you give the same direct deposit info next year, you’ll get it electronically.

      Also very curious if all the raging people used the pretty simple “where’s my refund” tool. I checked mine religiously and after it went from received to accepted, I got my return in a matter of days.

      I used turbotax FWIW.

      • Nope. I’ve lived in DC for 13 years, have used h&r block every year and always received my refund via direct deposit every year and STILL received a check this year even though I requested dd just like every other year.

  • Had a similar issue last year — they sat on my return for about 8 weeks. After waiting on hold for 2 hours, rep told me after 15-20 minutes of investigation that my paperwork had been “stuck sitting on someone’s desk.” About 2 weeks later I finally got the refund.

  • No surprise here. I once had to email a council member in order to expedite my delayed, measly $300 refund.

  • DC’s Tax office is the worst. The absolute worst. I’ve decided that the only way I’m going to get the money owed to me is through litigation.

    And I wish that in addition to our ranting online, we can all flood the Mayor’s and Councilmembers’ phone lines and email addresses with complaints until they clean up that mess.

    Who’s with me?

  • I got my refund in one week flat. No issues here.

  • I forgot to check 1 box on my DC tax return and so they claimed I owed an additional $1k. It took me a year to get it corrected. They never contacted me to tell me if my return was fixed, I had to call every couple of weeks to check.

  • They reached out to me about a month ago; and I replied with all the information the next day. I’ve yet to get my refund.

    Personally, I think the request for more information was a tactic to deny a percentage of people their refund, and hold onto the money for longer besides. There was no information they requested that they shouldn’t already have – and the Fed and MD (in which I lived for part of 2015) both required no additional information. They’ve given me my refund. DC still is stuck in convenient limbo.

    Who do I call about this, by the way?

  • Got my refund in less than a week. Filed electronically using TurboTax.

  • I filed the first week in February too. I got a letter stating they needed copy of driver’s license and copy of W2. Sent that in the next day and now it has been a month. What the heck DC!

  • FWIW, I just tried to call the help line to check in on this, and got an automatic recording that said “all lines are busy. Please call again later.” Then the phone automatically disconnected.

  • The office does engage in some questionable tactics for sure. I got a letter in 2010-ish that basically said they were going to keep my tax refund but gave no justification. The letter did say if I had a problem with not receiving my refund, to contact the office. I contacted the office and got my refund. I don’t know if this practice still takes place but I assume it is employed because a certain percentage of people won’t take the time to reply and DC gets to keep their refund.

    • My favorite is that every two years or so they report an old tax lien to the credit bureaus. (January this time) which forces me to resend the same letters dating back to 2006 that explain how the lien was a mistake in the first place (seriously, it was taken down before I even knew about it, in place for something like an hour) I’m up to a ten page fax detailing it.

  • That. Is. Insane.
    .
    I mean, I understand if they say “we reach out to everyone who owes us money who we need additional documentation from *first*, and after the filing deadline of April 15th, we begin the process of reaching out to those we owe money to to get the additional documentation we need”, but to just say “we’re keeping your money forever unless you badger us about it” is crazy time.

  • something similar happened to me in 2015 too! it was my first time filing taxes in DC; I filed wayy in advance and hadn’t heard anything for weeks. when I called, they told me they needed proof of residency and several other documents. absolute silliness that they don’t reach out, although the person on the phone was really nice and sent me an email so I could just reply with scanned versions instead of having to come in personally. make sure you reach out to them and hopefully you’ll talk to someone as helpful as I did!

  • I filed at the beginning of February using Turbo Tax. It was sent in and I got an email from DC saying it was received and accepted. Last week I got a letter from DC saying information was wrong and they were reducing my refund by $1,000. There was no explanation for why it was wrong or why it was being reduced. My refund was deposited into my account yesterday.

  • Same thing happened to me last year. I filed in January and didn’t receive my refund until April because they told me for two months it was “processing” and FINALLY after calling in late March suddenly I was informed that they needed my W-2 the entire time.

  • ah

    They have an absolutely horrible workflow, and I’ve had this experience as well.

    Last year I had to call to prompt a refund. I think they claimed there was some clerical issue, like it needed supervisor approval over a certain amount, and hadn’t received that. 3 months after it should have been paid.

    This year, they claimed I had an underpayment and I got a notice of bill for some ridiculous amount (like $200 interest and penalties for $25 underpayment). I called and they were quite pleasant and said it was a mistake. A month later another bill, with similar liabilities. I called again. Very pleasant, and was told they just needed to fix an error (crediting my tax payment to the wrong year) and the bill would go away.

    But no confirmation of anything! So I’m still expecting another letter for the same thing again . . .

  • I filed on HR Block and got my refund in about a week. Question, though, does HR Block append a copy of my W2 to the return? I just can’t remember if the software somehow snags it electronically, because I’ve never had to physically send it in since filing online. Maybe not all employers make W2s available to tax processing software…? Just not sure how that works.

  • I haven’t received my return from 2014! I filed in October of 2015 with an extension (and DC owes me money), and DC sent me a letter in January 2015 asking for additional documentation to verify my identify. Stuff like my W2 and something that has my name and address on it. I sent it back in February 2015 and they said its another 6-8 weeks before they can process my 2014 return. Ridiculous.

  • clevelanddave

    DC has been doing this for years, and it is absolutely criminal. If your file is incomplete, DC has an obligation- refund or payment- to reach out to a taxpayer. AG Racine should be all over this. It is a travesty to law abiding taxpayers who are voters who remember things like this.

  • A few years ago they with held my refund claiming I owed them back taxes (they were wrong). I responded quickly providing very clear documentation that they were wrong and asking for my refund. After several contact attempts got me nowhere, I gave up out of frustration. I still think of it as DC stealing my money.

  • The entire DC Government is one big fail of epic proportions. That’s why I don’t understand why people are clamoring to move here when not only is the entire local government incompetent, but our Public Schools as well as other city services are deplorable. All DC had to do was implement a pin system similar to the Feds. But they preferred to launch a system that placed more strain on an incompetent, crumbling infrastructure. I submitted my tax return on January 28th. Unlike others, I have never received a letter to provide additional information. It wasn’t until I read Popville and learned that the issue is citywide. I called OTR this Monday, asked them to remail the letter and I still haven’t received anything. This is horrible. I can’t put up with any of DC’s antics anymore so this is my final straw.

  • I to haven’t received my refund and I’ve called numerous times to no avail. This is beyond ridiculous and DC needs to implement a better system for requiring information. Now we run the risk of being harassed by parking enforcement going to the office to check.

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