Attention holiday shoppers: You might not be able to count on receiving a federal tax refund in January to pay for those gift bills.
In a congressionally-approved change aimed at battling tax refund fraud and identity theft, the IRS must hold tax refunds until Feb. 15 for the millions of Americans who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit.
"This is an important change as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen cautioned in an announcement as the year-end giving season approached. "We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don't want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years."
The Earned Income Tax Credit benefits taxpayers with low to moderate incomes. For a single head of household with two dependent children, the maximum annual income to qualify for the program in 2016 is $44,648, IRS data shows. For married couples who file jointly and have two children, the threshold is $50,198.
Approximately 26 million tax filers had received the Earned Income Tax Credit as of June 2016, IRS statistics show. More than 20 million federal tax returns claimed the Additional Child Tax Credit in 2014, the data shows.