State tax refunds to be delayed until Feb. 26

BATON ROUGE (AP) — People could start filing their state income tax returns Wednesday, but they'll be waiting at least a month

for any refunds because of new computer software intended to crack down on tax fraud.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue said Feb. 26 is the earliest that tax filers will get their refunds.

The department announced that new computer

software designed to prevent fraudulent electronic filing was rolled out

for this

year's tax filing season. That identity verification software

means the first taxpayer returns will be processed Feb. 15 and

the first refunds issued a week and a half later, according to the

department.

"We are confident this new system will help

protect the public trust against tax fraud," Tim Barfield, the

department's executive

counsel, said in a statement.

If a return is flagged as questionable, taxpayers will be directed to an online data test or telephone survey to verify their

identities.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue said 82 percent of Louisiana taxpayers e-filed their state income tax returns for 2011.

The department said the increase in electronic filing increases the risk for tax fraud, citing federal statistics that tax

fraud is the third largest theft of federal funds.

Nearly 23,000 cases of tax fraud were identified in Louisiana in 2012, according to the department.