- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two senior senators are concerned that some taxpayers could face delays in receiving promised tax-refund checks even though they filed their returns on time this year.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and the panel's ranking Republican, Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, said in a letter yesterday to Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill that as many as 7 million tax returns were not included on the initial list, according to the Treasury inspector general for taxes.

"This is a serious matter that deserves an immediate and appropriate response," the senators wrote. "These taxpayers timely filed their tax returns for 2000 and full-paid their taxes. They are entitled to and deserve better service" from the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS is using tax returns filed this year to figure out which taxpayers qualify for refund checks of up to $300 for single people and $600 for married couples. The checks are part of the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax-cut law recently signed by President Bush.

It takes the IRS roughly three months after the mid-April filing deadline to finish processing all the returns. This year's task was expected to be completed by today.

IRS officials say taxpayers who qualify for refund checks are being added to the list as their returns are processed, meaning only a handful are likely to face relatively short delays.

"We continue to process returns all year," said IRS spokesman Don Roberts. "As taxpayer returns are processed, we will be figuring any advance payment they may be due on that return."

People who asked for an extension will get on the list for a refund check once their return is filed and processed.

The IRS also plans to send out notices to taxpayers informing them if they are getting a check and how much it will be.

The notices are still on hold, however, while House and Senate negotiators work out differences on a supplemental-spending bill that includes money for them. There have been unsuccessful attempts to stop the notices from Democratic lawmakers who see political overtones, something the Bush administration has denied.

"We think that Congress will get its work done on time," said Treasury Department spokeswoman Tara Bradshaw. "They can move fast when they want to."

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest retailer, is offering to cash the tax-rebate checks for free. The check-cashers won't even have to buy anything at its stores.

"Seriously, no purchase is necessary," Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams said yesterday. "We're happy to have people come in our stores, to cash them and leave but we'd love them to spend some of the money, too."

Mr. Williams declined to say how many people the company expected to take up its offer.

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