Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:
Question: It has now been more than 12 weeks since I e-filed my 2020 North Carolina state income tax return on Feb. 28 and was notified the same day that the return was accepted. I am due a refund. After six weeks, I went to the N.C. Department of Revenue website and followed the steps for the, “Where is my refund?” tab and got this reply: “Your return is in Stage 2. Due to enhanced identity theft protection and fraud prevention measures, some refunds may take longer than normal, which is six weeks for electronically filed returns and 12 weeks for paper returns. It may take up to 45 days for your return to move to the next stage of processing. For some taxpayers, the department may contact you by letter for additional information.” Now, weeks later, nothing has changed. I still get the same reply. Meanwhile, I made my first quarterly estimated payment in April and another is due in June. Is there an explanation for why my 2020 return seems to be stuck in the Department of Revenue’s stage 2? I called their posted phone number last week but gained no additional information, and the ability to talk to anyone, by doing that.
My answer: This is exactly why I stopped paying taxes 20 years ago. My life is so much less stressful now. Sure, the upcoming jail time won’t be great, but I’ve been very relaxed for a couple of decades.
Real answer: Schorr Johnson, director of public affairs for the North Carolina Department of Revenue, said the department will look into this particular taxpayer’s case further.
Johnson reiterated that the enhanced identity theft protection and fraud prevention measures are causing some refunds to take longer than normal, “and we may contact taxpayers for additional information or verification.” The number of delayed returns is relatively small compared to total volume.
“The N.C. DOR has approximately 8,600 refunds pending over 60 days due to enhanced identity theft measures, out of approximately 2.3 million 2020 refunds processed and issued so far this year,” Johnson said via email. “Our employees are working through those as quickly as possible. The N.C. DOR has processed nearly 5 million tax returns in total.”
I’ll cut them some slack on that, but my friend stuck in Stage 2 is still pretty irate.
Johnson said the department is hitting its marks, though.
“We are currently more than meeting our published expectations for refunds for most returns, which is six weeks for electronically-filed and 12 weeks for paper-filed,” Johnson said, adding that taxpayers can check the status of their refunds by calling 877-252-4052.
I know the pandemic has caused all kinds of problems for pretty much everyone, so I asked Johnson if that was a factor in all of this — maybe fewer workers, or more people working from home, for instance.
“While many N.C. DOR employees are teleworking, we are not dealing with reduced staff this tax season, and returns are being processed overall faster than in previous years, as more taxpayers are filing electronic returns rather than paper,” Johnson said.
Question: Why is there no Lexus dealership in Asheville? There’s one in Greenville, South Carolina, and one in Knoxville, Tennessee, but not one in Asheville. Why is that? It’s not convenient to go to those other cities for service, and Asheville seems like a large enough city to have our own dealership.
My answer: I really hope the Lexus spokesperson doesn’t say they’re in “Stage 2” of working to locate a dealership here…
Real answer: “Lexus continuously monitors markets for growth opportunity based on the size of the luxury industry in that market and the number of Lexus owners already in the market,” Michael Kroll, a spokesman for Toyota Motor North America, said via email. “Asheville is a market we are monitoring, but have no specific plans at this time.”
Toyota is the parent company of Lexus, although Lexus operates as its own company.
This brings us to an interesting point, though.
As a Lexus owner myself, albeit a 23-year-old unkillable ES 300, I take mine to my regular mechanic, Xpert Tech in the Swannanoa area, for maintenance and repairs. It uses Toyota parts, so that’s helpful, and saves me some dough.