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Alabama’s fear of identity thieves has slowed issuance of tax returns this year

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) -- The State of Alabama has taken the cautious approach in issuing tax refunds in 2016, hoping to avoid traps laid by identify thieves looking to grab the refund checks of unsuspecting taxpayers.

There were about 1.8 million tax returns filed in Alabama this year, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The rate of refunds has slowed this year, a Department of Revenue spokesman said, with some taxpayers receiving ID quizzes to ensure their identity.

Other tax returns, mostly reviewed by computers, are getting additional human scrutiny and those returns won’t all be completed until the end of June, spokesman Frank Miles told WHNT News 19.

“And I can tell you that this year we know that identity theft is a huge problem and growing even larger,” Miles said, without specifying how many taxpayers could be affected. “And what we’ve done to respond to that is this year is we’ve stopped, we actually have stopped a few more returns this year, to make sure that we’re not sending money to criminals rather than to the taxpayers whose money it actually is.”

Miles said once a refund is approved, it is issued within two to three weeks. He said all returns approved as of May 4, have been issued.

“But I can still say, that even though we’re holding more this year, that 95 percent of the returns that have gone through that automatic process and have claimed a refund, those refunds are approved within two weeks,” he said.

For taxpayers who want to know the status of their refund, the Alabama Department of Revenue, provides the information on its website.

To check on the status of an Alabama tax refund:

Go online to:

Click on “Check my refund status.”

Enter the last four digits of your Social Security number and the dollar amount of the expected refund.

Or taxpayers can call: 855 894 7391.

Miles said the Department of Revenue understands people need those tax refund dollars.

“We are sensitive to the fact that there are taxpayers out there whose money has been delayed, we know they’re counting on it and we’re doing everything we can to get it to them as quickly as possible,” he said. “But we’ve got to be careful, we’ve got to make sure that the refund is correct, and we want to make sure we’re putting it in their hands where it belongs, not in the hands of criminals.”

The Department of Revenue also hopes to improve its handling of potential problems and the issuing of refunds for next year, he said.

“We’re constantly working to improve our IT systems,” Mile said. “And we’ll continue to do that throughout the summer, between now and the next filing season to hopefully mitigate some of these delays and become a little smarter and a little more accurate with what is, and is not, fraudulent on a return.”