Taxpayers waiting for their income tax refund to arrive so they can pay overdue bills are going to sweat a little this year.
Filers who expected a deposit in their account within 10 days may have to wait as many as 21 days to receive a refund, according to Dan Boone, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service.
Boon said the delays are due to the agency "fine-tuning" its systems to guard against fraud; screening returns more carefully than in previous years.
"There was a time where we said as few as 10 days, and in most cases it is still lower than 21 days if nothing is wrong with the return," he said.
That could be too long for mother Jessice McGhee, who has to find a way to take care of her 9-month-old boy.
"They said it would come in seven to 10 days, and we still don't have it," the 24-year-old McGhee said Thursday.
To save her home, she's got to make a payment. And to make a payment, she needs a refund from her income tax return, which she filed Feb. 2.
"I've got to get caught up on my mortgage, pay my electric, and go see the doctor," she said. "I'm totally behind on everything."
If the economy was in better shape, it wouldn't be an issue. But her husband can find only temporary jobs, and her own employer only scheduled her to work eight hours last week, she said.
"They won't even let me know when it's going to come in," McGhee said.
She's been experiencing a problem common to many taxpayers: The IRS-managed website "Where's My Refund," hasn't been fully operational.
On Wednesday, the IRS sent out a notice apologizing for the errors.
The errors apparently continued Thursday, according to single-mother Allie Haston.
"It's not even coming up, it just tells me my information is incorrect" Haston said. "It's not telling me it's been received or anything."
For Haston, the agony is mounting with each passing day. She was counting on that cash.
Haston needs her income tax return to make her car payment. Without her car, she can't get to her job in the medical field, becausee there's no public transportation near her home.
The car payment is due on Feb. 26, but "I've got no idea when the return is going to be deposited into my account," she said.
Like McGhee, Haston e-filed on Feb. 2, and today will mark 14 days of waiting.
"I'm pretty anxious and completely stressed," Haston said. "I don't have the option for my car payment to be late, it has to be paid on time."
Boone says that despite the delays and computer glitches, the IRS estimates that 90 percent of filers will receive their refund within 21 days, provided there are no errors on their return forms.
"When you file a tax return, there are variables involved all the way from the software you're using to what's going on at our end, and the accuracy of the return," Boone said. "And regardless of whether 'Where's My Refund' gives correct information, it doesn't affect the processing of your refund."
The deadline to file tax returns is April 17, two months from today.