Local family at a loss to hear IRS delaying tax refunds for some low-income Americans

SEATTLE –For Gregory Potter and his wife, their federal tax refund equates to the first and last month’s rent on a permanent apartment.

“We were definitely depending on that money to move forward into the next phase in life,” Potter said.

The IRS announced this week it is delaying tax refunds for more than 40 million low-income families as the agency steps up efforts to fight identity theft and fraud. The delays will affect families claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. These tax breaks are geared to benefit the working poor, and many families claim both.

For Potter and his wife, that means getting out of transitional house and giving their six girls a home of their own.

"My hands are definitely full," he said Wednesday.

The odds of having identical twins is one thing; the odds of having two sets without fertility?

"It's like 1 in 90,000."

But Potter said they're lucky. And they depend on their tax refund.

"I pay my taxes just like everyone else," Potter said. "The middle-class people, this is who it's going to affect the most right here."

Mark Mannhalt, a tax agent at Northwest Tax and Accounting, said the earned income tax credit "is the number one fraud area the IRS has to deal with every year. Before they hand it out, they want to make sure it's accurate."

The delay will allow the IRS to cross-check information like Social Security numbers with birth dates to make sure nobody is trying to steal tax refunds.

"As far as the fraud situation," Potter said, "I do understand there are certain precautions that need to be taken, but obviously this would not be my first time claiming all of my children."

If nothing else, Potter wishes the IRS would have announced this earlier.

"I  could have been saving," he said.

But instead, all he can do is wait.

"I get up and go to work, I pay bills, I pay my taxes and, if you haven't noticed, I have six love cups that need to be filled every day, whether I am sick or I don't feel like it. So I feel like with them doing what they're doing, it's totally unfair to the families that need it."

The tax filing season starts Jan. 23. But a new law requires the IRS to delay tax refunds for people claiming these credits until Feb. 15. Processing times will delay most of the refunds until the end of February,