Don't Make My Mistake: One Letter May Stand Between You And Your Tax Refund | WOSU Radio

Don't Make My Mistake: One Letter May Stand Between You And Your Tax Refund

May 20, 2019

Submitting your income tax returns in Ohio doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a refund right away. Sometimes, in order to get your money, there's a quiz standing in your way. I should know.

I recently found a letter from the Ohio Department of Taxation, telling me I had 30 days to take an identity confirmation quiz in order to receive my tax refund. And because I never check my mail (typical millennial), that window had already passed.

Panicked about losing money, I called up the Department of Taxation. When I asked department director Jeff McClain about that 30-day window, he explained it’s actually just a motivational tactic.

“I’m like everyone else: If you have a deadline, you’re more likely to be more aware of it and be more responsive,” he says.

Does that motivation backfire, though? Do some Ohioans not take the quiz at all, because they think they missed the window?

According to Department of Taxation data, about 95% of people complete the online tax ID quiz. In 2018, that left about 13,000 Ohioans who missed it completely.

McClain says that doesn’t necessarily mean they lost their refund.

“Many times, people have basically proven they are who they say they are through a different manner – they either show up personally, or there’s different ways they can do that,” he says.

The ID quiz has been around since 2014, with the purpose of stopping fraudsters from getting their hands on your tax refund. Ohio sent out 1 million letters like mine in 2014, and McClain says it helped the department stop more than $271 million worth of refunds from ending up in the wrong hands.

In 2018, the state only sent out some 310,000 letters, in part because the department has worked to intercept fraud before refund time.

The Department of Taxation says it doesn’t track the amount of money that goes unclaimed because people don't take the ID quiz. That's because your money doesn’t make it into Ohio's unclaimed refund pool – if you get a letter, that means your return hasn’t even been processed yet.

Ohio, it turns out, gives you an unlimited amount of time to complete that quiz and get the ball moving on your refund again.

Relieved, I finally completed the ID quiz. Passed with flying colors, even. I should be getting my refund sometime soon.

This time, I'll make sure to actually check my mail.