Tax department blames refund delays on budget


POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2009

Question: I tried to check on my state tax refund, which I sent in about a month ago. I found out that they haven't even processed it yet. What's the deal here? Why is it taking so long?

Answer: Blame the state of the state's economy. It's taking eight to 10 weeks on average for refunds sent by mail to be processed.

With hiring freezes and budget cuts, the state Department of Taxation “;has had to realign (its) resources in processing tax refunds and tax payments,”; said Deputy Director Sandra Yahiro.

Basically, that means fewer people to process the returns.

It's taking eight to 10 weeks to process tax returns filed on paper, but that's if there are no errors that would require a manual review, Yahiro said.

It's much shorter for electronic filings. E-filed tax returns are taking approximately two weeks, if the refund is directly deposited into a bank account, or three to four weeks if a paper check is requested, Yahiro said.

Between Jan. 1 and April 26, the department processed 1,348,526 documents of all tax types, she said.

“;All in all, with the economy in its current state, the department is asking for the public's patience and understanding in receiving their tax refunds this year,”; Yahiro said.

Taxpayers can check the status of their refunds by going to tax.ehawaii.gov/hoihoi/refund.html;jsessionid=CBEF2221540417A9FC94EEC9A42B0C1A.www01 or calling 587-4242 or 1-800-222-3229.

Q: TheBus' electronic system that tells people the time and date is not working. Buses that I have ridden recently have read “;Monday 1/1/97”; and the times are wrong. I have called the customer service department, but they have not as yet corrected the problem. If they can't correct it, they should not have it displayed. Can you follow up on this? Many bus riders depend on the time that is displayed.

A: Oahu Transit Services said it is aware that electronic signs on some of its buses are reporting the wrong date and time and is “;actively working”; to solve the problem.

But the “;challenge is in determining which of our buses are affected,”; said Oahu Transit spokeswoman Michelle Kennedy.

The problem is that the signs are not all the same and the malfunctions haven't been found in all buses or specific bus types, she said.

“;This makes it difficult to apply a 'patch' fix.”;

Asked why bus operators don't just report malfunctioning signs themselves, Kennedy said they may not be able to see the sign from their seats, so may not know the sign is not functioning properly.

A sign may be OK leaving the bus yard, but may go awry while in service, she said.

Instead of having passengers report the problem to the drivers, Oahu Transit prefers that they call in the problem so it has documentation and also so drivers don't have to handle multiple complaints throughout the day, “;which may impact their ability to provide optimal service to the customers.”;

The company is fixing the signs as they are reported.

To report a bus with a malfunctioning display, riders are asked to provide the bus number to the Customer Service Office at 848-4500.

Or, go online at www.thebus.org and fill out the online comment form.